[size=22]I. IntroductionImagine waking up one day to discover that the government required a license plate not just on cars, but also on you and every other person. A giant digital “Hello, My Name Is…” sticker floats above your head, identifying you to law enforcement everywhere you go. Not only that, these digital identifiers hovering over you have a bar code built in, allowing police to scan a photo and to catalog you in a crowd of tens of thousands of people, or instantly pull up a complete file about your life and activities.
Would you be worried to go outside with this name tag looming above you? Would you cautiously look out for and try to avoid cameras on the street? Would you try to veer away from a beat cop walking down the street in case they pull up your information and find an unpaid parking ticket? Would you hesitate to go to a psychiatrist, or a protest, or an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting knowing your identity would be broadcast to any video camera you pass by?[/size]
You don’t have to use your imagination to contemplate this world without anonymity. It’s already the type of reality we are creeping towards with facial recognition surveillance as it continues to be built into society without any rules or limits. Facial recognition technology has the power to eliminate anonymity and obscurity from American life. It could give the government greater surveillance powers than placing a police officer on every street corner.
While ever-watching facial recognition surveillance may seem like science fiction, the technology is very much part of today’s world. Half of all adults in the United States have pre-identified photos in databases accessible to law enforcement for facial-recognition searches, and a significant number of law enforcement entities possess the ability to use facial recognition for a range of surveillance and law-enforcement activities. However even as its power and prevalence grow, there are practically no laws limiting facial recognition surveillance. It’s time for that to change.