The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is trying to make Americans more aware of the encroaching reach of facial recognition, inviting people to take a quiz to find out which state and federal agencies have access to their biometric data. The Who Has Your Face quiz is the result of a collaboration between EFF and the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law.
The quiz is based on the data sharing arrangements that the EFF was able to verify through public reporting and transparency requests. Those documents reveal that at least half of all Americans are recorded in government facial recognition databases, and the true number could in fact be much higher. Twenty-seven states already allow the FBI to search through their driver’s license and ID databases, and 43 different DMVs now use some form of facial recognition.
The EFF argues that those figures are particularly insidious because many Americans are never told that their information could be entered in a facial recognition database when they apply for an ID like a driver’s license. That means that many of the people in those databases never had the opportunity to give (or deny) their consent, nor were they aware that a standard application process could carry such invasive surveillance risks.
Many of the sharing agreements between state and federal agencies were made behind closed doors, with no input from the general public. The EFF was extremely critical of that lack of transparency, which makes it nearly impossible to assess the scope of facial recognition databases.
Who Has Your Face arrives in the wake of several high-profile facial recognition controversies, including the Clearview AI scandal. The EFF has asked for a ban on the government use of facial recognition, and is hoping that the quiz will encourage more citizens to support those efforts.
In May, San Francisco became the first city to implement a facial recognition ban. Cities like Oakland and Cambridge have followed suit in the months since, though efforts to regulate facial recognition at the federal level have not yet gained much traction.
March 19, 2020 – by Eric Weiss