Facial recognition technology


Sir, – Karlin Lillington rightly raises concerns about facial recognition technology and privacy (“Airport facial scanning: Dystopian nightmare rebranded as travel perk”, Business Opinion, August 15th).

US cities such as San Francisco and Oakland have banned the use of facial recognition technology by the police, and it is becoming a hot topic in the 2020 US presidential election, with candidate Bernie Sanders (for one) publicly coming out against using such technology for public security purposes.

In the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Office is investigating the use of facial recognition by a property developer in London, further to the concerns of that city’s mayor Sadiq Khan.

The lack of respect for personal privacy needs to be more widely debated in Ireland, and beyond the context of airport security.

The public needs to be aware of the dangers of the use of facial recognition and to be educated beyond a misinformed consumer technology mentality of having “nothing to hide”.

As Edward Snowden said, such a position is like arguing you do not care about the freedom of speech, because you think you have nothing to say.

Yet, in this age of GDPR and human rights awareness, when we turn to Irish Twitter, we witness daily the non-stop attempted crowdsourced facial recognition by the anonymous, personally outraged people as they hunt down and seek to punish others they disagree with by way of their identification from grainy photographs, with the contemptuous naming and shaming attempts usually accompanied with a nasty triangulation of demanding public isolation, economic boycott or that they be fired from their jobs. Who cares what a judge has said or jury will say?

Give the mismatch between expectations of civil liberties and the actual behaviour of the digital pitchfork and burning torch-carriers, could we already be living out another dystopian nightmare: of Little Brother being worse than Big Brother? It was not for nothing that comedian Stuart Lee referred to Twitter as the “Stasi of the Angry Birds generation”.

Unfortunately, the bigger issue of digital privacy is neither a game nor a joke. – Yours, etc,