Convenient for Us or the Government?

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Evaluating the use of biometrics in everyday life, specifically facial recognition through Facebook, Aletta Norval and Elpida Prasopoulou’s “Public Face? A critical exploration of the diffusion of face recognition technologies in online social networks” mentions the positive and negative implications of the diffusion of biometric technologies into commercial and social media applications. Although the use of biometrics in public domains is to “deliver improved convenience and value to individuals,” it seems like another way for the government to detect our every move. After all, the biometrics industry began producing products for the government before producing products for the general public.

Biometrics include physical characteristics such as an individual’s voice, fingerprint, iris and hand geometry, and behavior characteristics such as a signature or writing style. The key factors persuading the adoption of biometrics for identification are security related and stress safety in a post 9/11 world. Arguments upholding the diffusion include biometrics enhancing migration control, facilitating economic growth and ease of movement, and contributing to better government services. Biometrics as reliable passwords improve the argument for securing identity and protecting personal data.

In arguing for biometrics use in public domains, proponents state that facial photographs only disclose information that the subject discloses to the general public, facial recognition is non-intrusive and the use of photographs for identification is socially and culturally accepted. Biometrics for commercial and social media applications, in my opinion, are covert ways to detect criminals and observe citizens. Facial scans of crowds and individuals occur through cameras, including cameras at a distance, giving it a covert capability. Contrary to proponents’ arguments, biometrics are invasive and don’t always occur with the subject’s consent. The most invasive form of biometrics is “remote biometrics,” where databases identify and compare subject photographs to watch-lists and other databases, usually without the subject’s consent.

Facial recognition through social media applications like Facebook makes it easier to identify and observe individuals. “Your face is a conduit to an incredible amount of information about you.” On the internet, an obtained faceprint can lead to identifying an individual’s social network profile, their personality traits and known whereabouts. Not only does that enlist privacy concerns with the government, but with other members of society. Individuals should not only worry about government surveillance, but identity theft. Though you make think I’m paranoid, but the government spying on citizens is nothing new.

At Super Bowl XXXV a camera took images of 100,000 fans and matched them against a digitalized police lineup of known criminals without their knowledge. WikiLeaks documents released in 2017 reveal the various methods the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) use to hack devices. A tool called “Weeping Angel” can attack Samsung SmartTV’s. Placing the target television in a “Fake-Off” mode that operates as a bug, the CIA can record conversations in the room and send them over the internet to their server. The CIA can also bypass encrypted software and applications to record the sounds, images and private text messages of citizens, which leads me to believe that the CIA can easily hack into a mobile phone camera and record my conversations.

I’m not saying that biometrics for public use is bad. I’m saying that the government has the means to continuously observe citizens. If facial recognition can offer a blueprint to my life on social networks and is compare subjects’ faces to criminal lists, then other forms of biometrics technologies provide even more data about ourselves. The CIA can hack into our phones and store our fingerprints, iris scans and much more. Just be careful.

                                                      Works Cited

Norval, A., & Prasopoulou, E. (2017). Public Faces? A critical exploration of the diffusion of face recognition technologies in online social networks. New Media and Society, 637-654.

Timberg, C., Dwoskin, E., & Nakashima, E. (2017, March 7). WikiLeaks: The CIA is using popular TVs, smartphones and cars to spy on their owners. Retrieved from The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/03/07/why-the-cia-is-using-your-tvs-smartphones-and-cars-for-spying/?utm_term=.67a92d84dae1

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