Forget the mask, wear a niqab

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Your face is the key now. With or without N-95 masks.

In the near future, your face will be the only way to access an ATM, board a plane, bus or car, enter a building or check into your hotel room. Possibly even your own home.

To feel save? Well, not. Concerned about privacy? you don’t have any more Remain anonymous? No way. Public or private. Especially the first.

Thanks to facial recognition software, our never-ending fascination with all things digital will soon turn into a nightmare – a society where anyone can spy on you. Your friend, your colleague, your family, even a complete stranger. Don’t worry, you can do the same.

Despite calls for legislation to protect citizens’ privacy, the focus has so far been on protecting simple text data such as bank account numbers and passwords.

A far greater threat to citizens’ privacy has been ignored. Huge searchable databases of images have been created by many governments and private companies from images readily posted by social media fans or “captured” by miniature cameras embedded in any number of innocuous looking devices such as phones, CCTVs and smart TVs, doorbells, locks and speakers were embedded .

These image databases can be used in conjunction with facial recognition software to locate “a face in a crowd” so to speak. Nowadays, you don’t even need to own a computer or phone to be tracked – your mere presence in a camera-rich environment is all that is required.

The pen is no more mighty than the sword. The camera is.

The usefulness of facial recognition systems stems from their presumed ability to recognize a specific face in a sea of ​​faces, whether at a cricket match, a protest, a wedding or a Zoom meeting. It is well documented that people have been denied jobs, visas and housing because of their social media posts. The same is guaranteed to happen, even more so when image databases are mined to extract information. Key players in this data mining operation are Clearview (the world’s leading facial recognition software company), Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Amazon.

In order for the AI’s learning algorithms to work properly, enormous amounts of data must be collected and entered manually. This means that most of the newly created AI jobs will be highly repetitive, mind-numbing data entry jobs that require workers with marginal technical skills to analyze, classify, and label audio, video, and text data according to prescribed business requirements (the determine what constitutes human faces, hate speech, pornography, violent images, etc.). Are these jobs so different from assembly line work in garment and shoe factories? Once the AI ​​programs are considered sufficiently trained, the entire analysis/classification/labeling process can be automated and the workers fired.

Friedrich A. Hayek, co-winner of the 1974 Nobel Prize in Economics for his study of the intertwining of economic, social, and institutional phenomena, remarked that in a totalitarian state the goals of the planner become the goals of the governed, while doing the means necessary to achieve those goals to reach. It is no coincidence that the growth of populism around the world seems to follow the growth of the IT industry.

Why would a country be interested in cracking down on shady practices by IT companies when its broader interests benefit immensely from those companies’ data? When monopolistic IT companies go to bed with both authoritarian and supposedly democratic governments, their goal is to create the perfectly obedient citizen, willing to consume material goods and government propaganda with equal ease.

In an October 2020 NYTimes op-ed entitled “Why We Must Ban Facial Recognition Software Now,” authors Evan Selinger and Woodrow Hartzog wrote, “It is necessary to stop the procurement of this technology — and the creation of the associated databases — to stop the… protect civil rights and privacy. But limiting government procurement will not be enough. We must ban facial recognition in both the public and private sectors before we become so dependent on it that we accept its inevitable harms as necessary for ‘progress’.”

Face recognition systems, as currently used, have great difficulty recognizing people of color and women. I am sure that the IT giants with AI R&D activities in India are focusing on solving this problem
with almost two billion colored faces – for free!

Do you want to protect yourself from the coronavirus and the nosy AI in the sky at the same time? And as an additional benefit of drones with missiles?

Wear a niqab in public and in private.

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