Facial recognition technology amplifies racist policing, threatens the right to protest and should be banned globally, Amnesty International said as it urged New York City to pass a ban on its use in mass surveillance by law enforcement.
“Facial recognition risks being weaponised by law enforcement against marginalised communities around the world,” said Matt Mahmoudi, AI and human rights researcher at Amnesty. “From New Delhi to New York, this invasive technology turns our identities against us and undermines human rights.
“New Yorkers should be able to go out about their daily lives without being tracked by facial recognition. Other major cities across the US have already banned facial recognition, and New York must do the same.”
Albert Fox Cahn of New York’s Urban Justice Centre, which is supporting Amnesty’s Ban the Scan campaign, said: “Facial recognition is biased, broken, and antithetical to democracy.
“For years, the [New York police department] has used facial recognition to track tens of thousands of New Yorkers, putting New Yorkers of colour at risk of false arrest and police violence. Banning facial recognition won’t just protect civil rights: it’s a matter of life and death.”
In tests for racial bias, facial recognition technology has repeatedly come up short.
In 2016, a team at Georgetown University analysed more than 10,000 pages of documents on the use of the technology by US police departments. It found that the departments were applying the technology to databases that were “disproportionately African American”, even while using software that was particularly bad at recognising black faces.
In another study, the American Civil Liberties Union fed photos of members of Congress into Amazon’s facial recognition tool, Rekognition, and asked it to find those matched with a mugshot database. The system returned 28 matches, “disproportionately of people of colour”.
Initially, Amnesty will ask New Yorkers to file official comments on NYPD use of facial recognition, under the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technologies Act, passed by the city last summer, which required police to disclose their use of surveillance tech by 12 January this year, and provided a 45-day window for public comment.
Amnesty will also help New Yorkers generate freedom of information requests to see where facial recognition technology is being used, and run an open-source intelligence campaign to spot and tag facial-recognition-capable cameras.
Eventually, the organisation said, it hopes to make the campaign global.
Amnesty is calling “for a total ban on the use, development, production, and sale of facial recognition technology for mass surveillance purposes by the police and other government agencies and calling for a ban on exports of the technology systems”.
It is not alone in calling for the technology to be banned from law enforcement, nor in highlighting the risks of racial discrimination and suppression of the right to protest.
In March, the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission said use of the technology should be suspended until its impact had been independently scrutinised and laws regulating its application actively passed.
“The law is clearly on the back foot with invasive [automated facial recognition] and predictive policing technologies,” said EHRC chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath.
“It is essential that their use is suspended until robust, independent impact assessments and consultations can be carried out, so that we know exactly how this technology is being used and are reassured that our rights are being respected.”
This content was originally published here.