Face Recognition and Digital Surveillance Eliminate Anonymous Protests

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Anti-racist protests that erupted in the USA and spread across the country are also concerned about the extent of state intervention for activists. Face recognition and digital surveillance technologies, in particular, are thought to eliminate the anonymity of the protesters.

While anti-racist protests broke out in Minneapolis after the police murder of George Floyd in the USA and then spread across the country, discussions on police interventions and state technological superiority began to increase. Although the demonstration right is guaranteed by the US Constitution, it is stated that the security forces are demanding increasing amounts of action videos and photos.

It is stated that the American state law enforcement agencies requested these videos and photographs to identify the identity of those who participated in the protests and to expand surveillance. In May 2019, San Francisco became the first US city to ban facial recognition. Although the gulf area in the US was civil disobedient and familiar with the demonstrations, anonymous protest was much easier in ancient times. Now, anonymous protests are about to go down in history, with smartphones, high-resolution cameras and powerful algorithms.

Facial recognition systems tighten surveillance

Although facial recognition was prohibited in cities such as Oakland, Berkeley, Somerville and Brookline, other cities of the country still allowed active use of face recognition by law enforcement agencies until recently. Face recognition algorithms investigate people and match them with images tagged in an enormous database. These databases may also be limited to criminal records, and may also be using a pool of driver’s photos. For example, it was recently discovered that a company called Clearview AI has taken billions of photos from online platforms, including Facebook and YouTube, and sold hundreds of law enforcement agencies to access this database and face recognition software.

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According to the news in BuzzFeed, police departments in and around Minneapolis were using Clearview even on a date like February. Also recently, allegations that the use of the face recognition system and the police and the FBI demanded images from the protests were also raised on various platforms. It is clear that this ability is used and it is used; however, it is not clear how the police use facial recognition practices daily in ongoing protests.

Those who favor this technology think it is a very valuable tool in detecting those who commit crime. However, the system is criticized not only in terms of overall precision, but also because of the emergence of discriminatory algorithms for non-white people and women. Since there are no strict rules and regulations, abuse of technology is thought to further restrict freedom of expression. In the USA, there are no federal laws governing facial recognition. In this case, the use of the system is left to the states and cities.


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