The Extinction of Privacy and Personal Security Via Biometrics and the Cashless Society

In a survey of 1,000 UK shoppers by the retail personalisation company RichRelevance, respondents were asked to rate a suite of in-store shopping technologies as either “cool” or “creepy”, and facial recognition fell decidedly on the creepy end of the scale.

In this survey it was found that companies will soon be using a range of technical tools to achieve sales via personalised product recommendations and promotions, screens displaying their products, possibly utilising an image of you and even getting assistants to bring products, say clothes, and automatically unlock dressing room doors.

Of course, the only way they can do this is by using facial recognition systems. As soon as you walk in store, your mobile gives you away. This provides the retailer with sufficient information to identify your age and gender, whether you are are a high-value customer and your spending habits. All of this was found to be very ‘creepy’ by respondents.

There are no laws or guidelines limiting their use and as soon as it gets into the wrong hands problems occur. One would not normally think that our own security services would be a threat to innocent civilians going about their lawful business.

Police forces in England and Wales have uploaded up to 18 million “mugshots” to a facial recognition database – despite a court ruling to be unlawful. They include photos of people never charged, or others cleared of an offence, and were uploaded without Home Office approval.

Photos of “hundreds of thousands” of innocent people may be on the database, an independent commissioner said. Biometrics Commissioner Alastair MacGregor QC said he was concerned about the implications of the system for privacy and civil liberties. Speaking in his first interview, he told Newsnight that police forces had begun setting up a searchable database of mugshots last year, without telling either him or the Home Office. Almost every police force in England and Wales had now supplied photographs, he said.

Facial recognition systems are already used by Britain’s spy agencies and by the Border Force at UK airports and ports. The FBI now has a database that covers one third of the the American adult population, so does Britain’s police and security services.

And what of the accuracy of these systems? Last summer, the Facebook artificial intelligence team announced that its facial-recognition software passed key tests with near human-level accuracy. It presented a further development: Yann LeCun, the AI team’s director, boasted that a different algorithm could identify people 83 percent of the time even if their faces were not even in the picture. The program instead works from a person’s hairdo, posture, and body type.

The issue is that no one really gave the authorities or private companies for that matter the authority to use, store or sell your face. Terms and Conditions wrapped up in dozens of pages of legal speak is not good enough. What if corrupt officers or hackers switch images of the guilty to the innocent?


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via The Extinction of Privacy and Personal Security Via Biometrics and the Cashless Society.

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