It is becoming increasingly clear that the emergent technological civilization has a problem with convergence. Convergence is the bringing together of various technologies into a seamless whole. Only when this bringing together reaches a certain tipping point does the purpose of the convergence become clear. Every indication brings the concerned citizen to the conclusion that we are approaching a point at which this convergence becomes a threat to individual autonomy.
Now there has been a revelation in the UK concerning facial recognition. An investigation by the UK organization Big Brother Watch has some news for us.
The civil liberties campaign group has found major property developers, shopping centers, museums, conference centers and casinos using the technology in the UK.
Big Brother Watch’s investigation also found that the Millennium Point conference center in Birmingham uses facial recognition surveillance “at the request of law enforcement”. In recent years, the area surrounding the conference center has been used for demonstrations by a disparate set of social groups: trade unionists, football fans and anti-racism campaigners.
Their investigation uncovered the use of live facial recognition in Sheffield’s Meadowhall, one of the biggest shopping centers in the North of England, in secret police trials that took place last year. The trial could have scanned the faces of over 2 million visitors.
Director of Big Brother Watch, Silkie Carlo, said in a statement which appears on the BBW website:
There is an epidemic of facial recognition in the UK.
The collusion between police and private companies in building these surveillance nets around popular spaces is deeply disturbing. Facial recognition is the perfect tool of oppression and the widespread use we’ve found indicates we’re facing a privacy emergency.
We now know that many millions of innocent people will have had their faces scanned with this surveillance without knowing about it, whether by police or by private companies.
The idea of a British museum secretly scanning the faces of children visiting an exhibition on the first emperor of China is chilling. There is a dark irony that this authoritarian surveillance tool is rarely seen outside of China.
Facial recognition surveillance risks making privacy in Britain extinct.
Parliament must follow in the footsteps of legislators in the US and urgently ban this authoritarian surveillance from public spaces.