We’ve all heard the stories: Authorities have installed cameras operating facial-recognition technology everywhere—on street corners, in shopping malls, even in office buildings. The software behind it is biased, generating high rates of false-positive matches, particularly for minorities. And law enforcement is using those matches, even false ones, to prosecute and imprison innocent people.
Does this sound like a dystopian nightmare, perhaps something that would be imposed on the Uyghurs in China? Writing in National Review, Rob Atkinson explains that in fact this is the image that the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), and a host of other alarmists are attempting to conjure in the minds of the media, elected officials, and the American public. According to them, rapacious technology companies and prying authorities are installing facial-recognition software without rules or guidelines, rapidly creating an Orwellian surveillance state. Only complete bans, it is said, will keep us free.
But while that dire narrative makes for good press and does wonders to generate fear and opposition—exactly what these groups want—it is completely misleading.