Privacy Advocates Give Up on Washington

Industry lobbyists want to keep tabs on you with facial recognition software.


Privacy advocates had hoped that over a dozen meetings with tech industry lobbyists they could find some middle ground, but the dream has withered on Vine. Nine advocates just walked out of the meetings arranged by The Commerce Department, claiming that tech lobbyists have a stranglehold on the proceedings and no interest in hearing another side.

The opposing forces were brought together with understanding that a little cooperation between the two, along with reps from trade and consumer groups, could “kick off an effort to craft privacy safeguards for the commercial use of facial recognition technology,” The Intercept reports.

But the privacy advocates finally threw their hands up in the air and said the hell with this. This was their reasoning:

“At a base minimum, people should be able to walk down a public street without fear that companies they’ve never heard of are tracking their every movement — and identifying them by name — using facial recognition technology. Unfortunately, we have been unable to obtain agreement even with that basic, specific premise.”

Though it’s tempting to reflexively side with the advocates over the lobbyists, it is actually understandable that their premise wasn’t immediately granted. The truth is, both groups are swimming in uncharted waters. It is not uncommon for it to take longer to define a debate than hold it. The terms here remain unclear and that “basic” premise isn’t really basic at all. 

Still, it is as good place to start as any.

At least Illinois and Texas have both passed some laws against technology that identifies people without some informed consent, so for now if you’re one of those quaint folks who wants to keep their face off the grid, we’d suggest a move. 

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