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Should Facial Recognition Surveillance Be Banned?

Should Facial Recognition Surveillance Be Banned?

Srishti Deoras

Case I: The EU suggests a ban on the use of AI for mass surveillance or scoring of individuals, which has been quite a debated practice given that it collects varied data about citizens such as social media activities, criminal records and more. 

Case II: There is a ban imposed on the facial recognition system used in everyday policing that is done by the body cameras worn by these officials. The US-based company, Axon which makes many of these cameras are told to stop manufacturing these cameras due to huge amounts of threats that facial recognition systems might bring.  

These are just a couple of instances about how powerful technology like artificial intelligence often comes with its own share of dilemmas and concerns. While on one hand, the companies and countries across the globe are going gaga over its adoption, there is another school of thought that advocates the ethical use of AI, which in most cases is often neglected. 

When it comes to technologies like citizen scoring or facial recognition, it often requires a whole lot of personal data for AI to function at its best. For instance, in the use of AI for mass surveillance, it could dangerously put a high risk on the moral and ethical integrity. EU has been working hard to establish itself as a leader in the space of Ethical AI, and the call for a ban of AI for jeopardising it comes as a no surprise. 


The Controversies Revolving Around Facial Recognition System

The topic is controversial enough with many advocates calling it a dangerously irresponsible technology. There have been many controversies in the past where the facial recognition system failed to recognise faces of certain race, ethnicity or colour. Despite these controversies, there has been rampant use of the technology in policing to identify the faces of people in real time as they pass a camera. While there have been frequent updates in the technology, it hasn’t reached its efficient best as yet. 

When Axon put a ban on its facial recognition technology as a decision established by its AI and Policing Technology Ethics Board, identified the threats facial recognition can pose. It made several points such as facial recognition being not good enough for an ethical use, its inaccuracy generating false negatives and positives, chances of possible abuse, and more. It also suggested that facial recognition should only be initiated with the consent and input of those it will affect. 

Apart from ethical concerns, there are technical concerns as well, such as not being accurate and instigating bias in many instances. Until these challenges are addressed, it can be quite risky to incorporate face recognition technology into policing.

Last year, Microsoft’s Brad Smith had called for federal regulation of face recognition. It said that facial recognition technology raises issues that go to the heart of fundamental human rights protections like privacy and freedom of expression. They called for thoughtful government regulation and development of norms around acceptable uses.

Should Technologies Like Facial Recognition & Citizen Scoring Be Banned? 

The US and European Union are formulating policies around regulating facial recognition. India, which is now taking concrete steps to lay down a policy framework for data privacy and security should also realise the ramifications of facial recognition and how it can be misused. 

Especially in India, a diverse country, mass adoption of facial recognition can also backfire. Though there have been initiatives like  Hyderabad airport initiating facial recognition, it may call for its own set of controversies. 

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It is strongly recommended to have strong government regulation to ensure that the technologies are not misused. It also requires the public and private sectors to set and act to bring out the most from technologies such as AI.

AI-Based Systems Can Pose A Threat To Humanity

While the EU had released its first guidelines a few months ago stating that AI should be deployed in a more trust-worthy and human-centric manner, the most recent suggestions come with more specific recommendations. Some of these areas are identifying areas of AI research that require funding, incorporating AI training into schools and universities and suggesting new methods to monitor the impact of AI. 

Apart from the EU, there have been reports of China gaining notoriety for using AI-enabled mass-scoring for its social credit system. It has been suggested that the Chinese government has huge control over citizen’s behaviour, putting them at the risk of control by the government on decisions such as even travelling. 

The idea of coming up with recommendations by EU is to keep a check on unjustified personal, physical or mental tracking or identification using AI such as identifying emotions in someone’s voice or track their facial expressions among others. 

While efforts have been taken to put a ban, it cannot guarantee that citizens will be immune to these harms. 

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