Digital rights activists use facial recognition to track Congress members
15 November 2019 08:48 GMT

Digital rights group Fight for the Future is currently conducting live facial recognition surveillance in Washington, DC, using Amazon’s commercially available Rekognition software to scan thousands of people’s faces and cross-check them with a database to track down members of Congress, Amazon lobbyists, and members of the press.


The group hopes to show that facial recognition surveillance is dangerous both when algorithms work and when they don’t. Three activists are wearing white jumpsuits emblazoned with “Facial Recognition in Progress” and headgear equipped with a phone running facial recognition software.

The trio are scanning faces at major metro stops and busy areas around Capitol Hill, looking for members of Congress and journalists, and around K street, looking for Amazon lobbyists. In the process, the group will collect biometric data on potentially thousands of DC residents and commuters. 

“This should probably be illegal,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future (pronouns: she/her), “but until Congress takes action to ban facial recognition surveillance, it’s terrifyingly easy for anyone –– a government agent, a corporation, or just a creepy stalker –– to conduct biometric monitoring and violate basic rights at a massive scale. We did this to make a point. And we’re going to delete the data that we collect. Someone else could use the same technology to do unimaginable harm. We need an immediate ban on law enforcement and government use of face surveillance, and should urgently and severely limit its use for private and commercial purposes.”

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