Just a few days ago I posted a pretty extensive blog on Facial Recognition technology and the threat it poses to individual privacy. So for the sake of time and repetition I'm not going to go back over the basics (see that post for this), but rather, get straight to a fantastic article from Alternet entitled 5 Unexpected Places You Can Be Tracked With Facial Recognition Technology. Of particular interest to me was the coverage the piece gives to California's own recent fight that we at the Consumer Federation of California were deeply involved in, over biometric identifiers being used by the DMV. As such, our Executive Director, Richard Holober, is quoted in the article as well.
Before I provide some especially choice clips of this article (because it dovetails very well with my recent post on the topic), let me refresh everyone's memories regarding the successful campaign by privacy and consumer groups against the California DMV which resulted in, with just one day to spare, the Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) stepping in to reject the DMV’s proposal to impose sweeping new biometric technologies - such as facial and thumb print scans - as elements in a renewal of a vendor contract to produce driver’s licenses and ID cards.
At the time, the Consumer Federation of California had joined organizations from across the political spectrum – including the ACLU, Electronic Frontier Foundation, California Eagle Forum, Consumers Union, Privacy Activism, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, and the World Privacy Forum - to urge the legislature to reject the DMV's request on the grounds that any change of this magnitude should be a policy matter for the legislature to decide, after considering whether it is effective, affordable, and if it contains the appropriate privacy safeguards.
One would expect, in light of the ongoing and intensifying debate over the REAL ID Act (a federal plan to create a national identity card based on drivers’ licenses) and the increasing number and degree of privacy violations committed by the federal government in recent years, that such a program would be fully debated, in the open, by our representatives in the State Legislature and with public comment, before it could ever be enacted.
Because no such debate has occurred, and no attention has been given to the privacy concerns such a program warrants, a broad coalition of consumer and privacy rights advocates joined forces to urge the legislature to reject this request while there’s still time.
(1) The first is procedural: the DMV is attempting to use a routine contract renewal process to effectuate major policy changes.
• The DMV does not appear to have authority to implement biometric technologies that the Legislature has considered and rejected over the years, without the issues being fully considered and addressed in policy and budget hearings.
(2) The second relates to privacy and security: the underlying proposal to use biometric technologies has yet to establish appropriate safeguards to protect against identity theft and unwarranted government snooping into our private lives.
It’s important to understand the limitations of biometrics as well as their strengths. The fact is, biometrics are easy to steal. Our fingerprints are left everywhere we touch, and our iris scans are everywhere we look.
According to experts, biometrics work only if two things can be verified by the verifier: one, that the biometric came from the person at the time of verification, and two, that the biometric matches the master biometric on file. If the system can't do that, it can't work.
You can see more of this original post of mine here.
1. The streets of America
In the fall, police officers from 40 departments will hit the streets armed with the Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System (MORIS) device. The gadget, which attaches to an iPhone, can take an iris scan from 6 inches away, a measure of a person's face from 5 feet away, or electronic fingerprints, according to Computer vision central. This biometric information can be matched to any database of pictures, including, potentially, one of the largest collections of tagged photos in existence: Facebook. The process is almost instant, so no time for a suspect to opt out of supplying law enforcement with a record of their biometric data.
2. The DMV
Slightly fewer than half of the DMVs in the US have the capacity to run your picture through biometric databases. Ostensibly, these searches are intended to catch people trying to collect multiple IDs from different states. Fair enough. But as EFF's Lee Tien told AlterNet, the DMV can also log into and run a person's face against any government database, including ones that hold criminal records. Last August, former New York Gov. David Paterson and DMV commissioner David Swartz held a triumphant news conference where they announced that more than 100 felony arrests were made through the DMV's facial recognition program.
In the past, the FBI has applied facial recognition technology to the DMV's vast database of photo images in pursuit of suspects, according to the AP...'We see this as sort of creeping Big Brother government, an invasion of people's privacy,' said Richard Holober, executive director of the San Mateo-based Consumer Federation of California."
3. Las Vegas casinos, and Kraft and Adidas stores
For years Las Vegas casinos have used various forms of facial recognition to identify card-counters. Now, Vegas is at the forefront of efforts to adapt facial recognition to more efficiently suck money out of visitors. The LA Times reported last week that the Venetian hotel and casino has installed basic facial recognition software in advertisements. A camera captures an image of a person passing by and an algorithm determines their gender and rough age. The advertisement can then present them with products most likely to appeal to their demographic.
Inevitably, facial recognition software is also being deployed for the purpose of getting people laid. SceneTap, an app developed by a Chicago company uses information from facial recognition cameras planted in bars to determine the ratio of women to men and the average age of customers. As of June, 200 bars across the country had signed up to take part, according to Forbes. SceneTap developers assured reporters that the cameras they're installing in bars do not capture high-enough-quality images to match them up to databases or Facebook profiles.