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San Franciscos ban on facial recognition tech goes too far Los Angeles Times


San Franciscos ban on facial recognition tech goes too far Los Angeles Times One of the byproducts of the rapidly increasing power of microchips is the proliferation of chip powered cameras and other devices that are constantly watching and, in some cases, recording the world in front of them in high definition There are cameras in doorbells and ATMs, overlooking building entrances and parking lots, on traffic lights and retail store walls

Law enforcement agencies have taken advantage of these electronic eyes to gather evidence of crimes, trace suspects and search for missing persons Now, are embracing a technology that can turn recordings into results far more efficiently: facial recognition software The software matches images from a database of pictures — for example, drivers licenses or mug shots — against what a security camera has recorded to try to identify the people in the recordings One problem, though, is that the software isnt 100 percent accurate Some of the versions on the market have an especially poor track record when it comes to identifying darker skinned people

For example, a study published this year found that Amazons Rekognition depending on their skin tone The San Francisco Board of Supervisors seized upon this flaw in an adopted Tuesday The measure requires government agencies in the city to develop policies for surveillance technologies that govern their use, and then to obtain the boards approval before acquiring and deploying such tools The one exception was facial recognition software, which the ordinance flatly prohibits government agencies from using This powerful technology requires oversight and caution to prevent it from being abused

But a ban would throw the good uses out with the bad ones The propensity for facial recognition technology to endanger civil rights and civil liberties substantially outweighs its purported benefits, and the technology will exacerbate racial injustice and threaten our ability to live free of continuous government monitoring, the ordinance states The board was wise to impose some badly needed transparency and oversight on local law enforcements use of monitoring and tracking technologies, such as license plate readers and cellphone locators Police agencies are focused on fighting crime and are often too cavalier about preserving civil liberties; elected officials are the ones who should be deciding how much of their constituents freedom from surveillance to sacrifice in order to make them more secure That should have been the approach taken to facial recognition software as well

Although its frightening to think how this technology could be misused — Chinas Orwellian monitoring of its population, and in particular its is Exhibit A — the technology itself isnt evil In fact, it can be a lifesaver And new applications of the software are emerging all the time Perhaps the most common use of facial recognition in everyday life is as a way to protect the sensitive information stored on smartphones But it can also help doctors diagnose some diseases, locate adults with dementia whove wandered away from their homes, stop the use of stolen credit cards and let blind people discern facial expressions, among many other uses

Even if we dont think the technology is good enough yet for police to use in identifying suspects, we may welcome its use by police in search and rescue operations, finding missing youths whove been victimized by sex traffickers or providing real time security at major public events Meanwhile, the technology is and in some cases Local governments need to approach all surveillance tools carefully, setting standards for how well the technology must perform and policies to govern how the tools can be used In the case of facial recognition, a number of serious questions remain to be answered before law enforcement agencies are given the green light What image sources are reliable enough to be used for identifications — drivers licenses? Mug shots? Can people be added to the database of images without their knowledge or consent? How should the software be tested? How much detail do agencies need to release to the public about their use of the technology? Some applications are so intrusive — such as using cameras with facial recognition abilities to track a persons movements from camera to camera — that they shouldnt be available to police without a warrant There should also be safeguards to ensure that law enforcement agencies dont circumvent the rules by obtaining information from cameras and facial recognition software deployed by private businesses

In other words, this powerful technology requires oversight and caution to prevent it from being abused But a ban would throw the good uses out with the bad ones

Source: Youtube

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