Amnesty International has added its voice to the chorus calling for a ban on the police use of facial recognition. The organization specifically objected to the use of the technology for mass surveillance as nationwide protests continue in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.
“Black people throughout our communities already experience disproportionate abuses of privacy and basic rights, and surveillance only exacerbates the potential for abuses,” said Amnesty USA’s Silicon Valley Initiative Director Michael Kleinman. “We are seeing these violations play out daily as police departments across the United States use facial recognition technology to identify protestors.”
Many facial recognition engines have had demonstrable racial biases. Amnesty argues that their use in surveillance schemes has the potential to perpetuate that bias and exacerbate the violent law enforcement practices that motivated the ongoing protests.
“Just the mere threat of surveillance creates a chilling effect on people that would otherwise exercise their right to protest,” continued Kleinman. “Instead of violating human rights daily out on the streets, law enforcement officers should be supporting people’s right to protest these killings and join communities in necessary dialogue.”
The statement is part of the growing backlash to facial recognition and police surveillance. Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft have all announced that they will stop selling their facial recognition tech to law enforcement agencies, while Congressional Democrats have proposed a bill that would limit the use of facial recognition technology in police body cameras. Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner has expressed similar concerns about one-to-many facial recognition systems that violate people’s civil liberties.
Amnesty is asking for a complete ban on the use, development, production, and sale of facial recognition technology to law enforcement organizations. The ban would apply to the police and other government agencies, and would also prevent the export of surveillance tech to other countries.
June 17, 2020 – by Eric Weiss