By Aaron Kesel
A new app lets you see cameras, Bluetooth beacons and smart speakers around you and help you opt out of data collection.
With an increase of surveillance like real-time facial recognition technology throughout the city of London, and the U.S. also implementing the tech among other biometrics in the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, as well as apps like Amazon's Ring and smart devices, there needs to be a way to watch the watchers.
No matter where you look, Big Brother has been pushing the use of surveillance technology, not just the UK, from Amazon helping law enforcement with its Facial Rekogntion software, DHS wanting to use it for border control, to the Olympics wanting to use the tech for security.
Even retail is pushing for the technology as an anti-theft mechanism to be introduced in a thousands of stores using biometric facial recognition software from FaceFirst to build a database of shoplifters, as Activist Post reported.
Some of the biggest airports in the country — estimated at 16 airports across the U.S. — are now scanning us as we board international flights. While CBP expects to scale up the program to cover more than 97 percent of passengers flying outside of the U.S. by 2021, according to Nextgov.
The app made for IOS and Android, lets you know what Internet of things (IoT) technologies are operating around you and what data they're collecting. The Internet of Things Assistant app and its infrastructure, created by Carnegie Mellon researchers, aims to give you more control over the devices tracking your activity and information.
With the app, you'll be able to see devices like public cameras with facial recognition technology, Bluetooth beacons tracking your location at the mall, and your neighbor's smart doorbell or smart speaker, according to a story published by Carnegie Mellon's Security and Privacy Institute. You can see what data these devices collect, and access privacy choices like opting in and out of data collection when available.
"Our research has shown that most people have little awareness about the amount of data collected today by IoT technologies," Norman Sadeh, a CyLab faculty member in Carnegie Mellon's Institute for Software Research, told CNET. "It also shows that many people would like to be better informed about the collection and use of their data by these technologies, especially in contexts where they don't expect this to happen. In addition, many of them would like the option to possibly opt in or out of some practices."
According to the report, the app has more than 30,000 IoT resources registered, Sadeh told CNET. "We expect to have hundreds of thousands of resources by the end of next month -- some registered by individual users, and many entered by our team," he added. "Over time we expect to rely more on individuals to populate our registries, but we understand the initial onus is on us to make this valuable enough."
More than half of all adults in the United States are in at least one database used for facial recognition, according to an estimate from the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law.
In 2017, Homeland Security clarified their position on domestic spying, stating that Americans who don’t want their faces scanned leaving the country “shouldn’t travel.”
“The only way for an individual to ensure he or she is not subject to collection of biometric information when traveling internationally is to refrain from traveling,” the DHS wrote in a document.
The rapid growth of this technology has triggered a much-needed debate to slow down the roll out. Activists, politicians, academics and even police forces are expressing serious concerns over the impact facial recognition could have on our society.
Several lawmakers have even chimed in to voice concerns about Amazon’s facial recognition software, expressing worry that it could be misused, The Hill reported.
A Senate bill introduced last March would force companies who want to use facial recognition technology on consumers to first get their consent. If that happens, as soon as the ink is dry Amazon’s Ring and Amazon’s Facial Rekognition as well as the TSA’s facial recognition devices could be banned across the U.S.
Activist Post Recommended Book: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism
Congress under the House Oversight Committee recently held a bipartisan discussion on the issue of regulating the use of facial recognition technology and biometric cameras.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said, “there are virtually no controls …. Whatever walk of life you come from, you may be a part of this [surveillance] process.”
The committee’s top Republican Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio.) also expressed, “It’s time for a time out” on government use of the surveillance technology.
Privacy advocate groups, attorneys, and even more recently Microsoft, which also markets its own facial recognition system, have all raised concerns over the technology, pointing to issues of consent, racial profiling, and the potential to use images gathered through facial recognition cameras as evidence of criminal guilt by law enforcement.
The ACLU also recently sued several agencies including the FBI and DHS in its fight against facial recognition technology for violating individual citizens privacy rights, Activist Post reported.
Both the ACLU and Fight For The Future, as well as numerous other groups, have called for an end to the dangerous technology and the voices are getting louder. Already, we have had several wins in this long fight and there are signs of hope. First, San Francisco banned facial recognition technology being used by the government in May of this year; then Somerville, Massachusetts, and Oakland, California followed suit. Now, the cream of the crop may happen as the EU seeks to ban the technology which has turned China into an Orwellian dictator’s wet dream.
Fight For The Future has previously launched a first-of-its-kind interactive map that tracks where in the U.S. facial recognition technology is being used and where it is being resisted, along with a tool-kit for local activists who want to help kickstart a ban in their city or state, as Activist Post reported.
Muckrock has also provided a guide to help you learn how to prepare a FOIA request to find out whether your local city is using facial recognition.
Image: Collective Evolution
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