It Is Now the Financial Times’ Turn to Plead for Some Kind of Biometrics Privacy Control

John Thornhill, Financial Times (this might be paywalled but I know you are a clever so-and-so):

A powerful case for why politicians need to act now to create a stronger legal framework for biometric technologies has been made by the barrister Matthew Ryder in an independent report published this week. (For disclosure: the report was commissioned by the Ada Lovelace Institute and I am on the charity’s board.) Until that comes into force, Ryder has called for a moratorium on the use of live facial recognition technology. Similar calls have been made by British parliamentarians and US legislators without prompting much response from national governments.

Three arguments are made as to why politicians have not yet acted: it is too early; it is too late; and the public does not care. All three ring hollow.

Despite widespread privacy concerns, facial recognition is everywhere. It is hard to overstate the impact of the global failure to restrict its use while governments permit and even encourage its widespread deployment. In just one example of how badly regulators are fumbling, the European Parliament called for a ban on facial recognition in a 2021 non-binding agreement while simultaneously developing a massive surveillance database. You can find similar examples worldwide for facial recognition and, increasingly, other forms of biometric identification. We are hurtling down a path to persistent surveillance with few safeguards, and our institutions are only encouraging it through either apathy or eager adoption.

Update: Several recognizable companies like Amazon and Microsoft stopped offering facial recognition technologies to law enforcement after widespread protests triggered, in part, by the police murder of George Floyd. But those decisions can change at any time and, anyway, they have been replaced by lower-profile vendors. All the same problems, offered by companies most people have never heard of.