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Use of facial recognition tech banned in Berkeley

The city of Berkeley in California has banned the city’s government from acquiring, retaining, requesting, accessing, or using facial recognition technology. Berkeley’s city council adopted this resolution unanimously, making it the fourth city in the US to have banned the use of facial recognition systems by government bodies. The city’s council members noted that the use of facial recognition technology to track groups or individuals “flies in the face” of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits federal, state and local governments from engaging in mass surveillance of US citizens.

Facial recognition tech eliminates human and judicial element behind the existing warrant system, the council noted. It said that governments must prove that planned surveillance is both constitutional and will protect the privacy of targets and bystanders. Use of facial recognition technology undermines this, the council said. Council members also said that the inherent “dragnet nature” of facial recognition technology undermines the community’s liberty.

Ineffective for tailored surveillance: Facial recognition technology has proven extremely ineffective at applying narrowly tailored surveillance, the council members said. It is worth noting that Amazon’s facial recognition technology, Rekognition, misidentified 28 members of Congress as arrested criminals, per a New York Times report.

The big picture: While the use of facial recognition technology to tackle crime is a larger debate, there have been several instances where the technology has been used for targeted surveillance. In China, facial recognition systems are being used to track and control the Uighurs, a primarily Muslim minority.

Also, from December 1, citizens of China will have to allow telecom operators to scan their faces while signing up for an internet connection or phone number.

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India’s centralised facial recognition system: India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) invited tenders for implementing a centralised Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS). The reason? Modernising police forces, information gathering and criminal identification among other things. The AFRS will be integrated with the Interoperable Criminal Justice System (ICJS), Crime and Criminal Tracking Networks and Systems (CCTNS), Immigration Visa Foreigner Registration Tracking (IVFRT), advanced State police Integration (Police IT Karnatak, Enterprise e-Cops Telangana, G-Cops Goa, Cyprus Tamil Naidu, e-Guj Gujarat.

The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) called this “unfathomably detrimental to Indians” and said that there is no statutory or executive basis for the requirement of AFRS. The organisation also said the system will collect information from several sources and as a result, will have data on people who may not have consented to being part of the system.

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