back to article Who in America is standing up to privacy-bothering facial-recognition tech? Maine is right now leading the pack

The State of Maine has enacted what the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) describes as the strongest state facial-recognition law in the US amid growing concern over the unconstrained use of facial-recognition systems by the public and private sector. The Maine bill, LD 1585 [PDF], forbids state officials from using facial …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Recently I got a phone with Android 11 (full Nanny++). One of thing it kept pushing me to do was allow Android to analyze all my pictures with faces so that they could be automatically labelled. After going though a lot of settings and stopping a lot of apps, including one called "Assistant", that pestering has died down - although I still get chills running down my back as though someone is watching me from behind.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      watching me from behind

      Even that would be a small improvement, they're in your face. :(

      What we need now is for Maine to extend this to private companies.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: watching me from behind

        They lack the authority, as few companies are incorporated or HQ'd in Maine. Any big state that tried would likely experience rapid brain drain (not even California is immune, as firms consider moving to Nevada).

    2. alain williams Silver badge

      Already done ?

      How do you know that Google has not already done the analysis and that all that the settings do is to stop the apps telling you what it has learned/worked-out ?

      Knowing who your chums are will help Google learn more about you and so better target more advertising.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      When using you're using Google Ass is taut you know things are going on behind your back.

    4. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      "as though someone is watching me from behind."

      Butt recognition?

  2. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Money doesn't shout - it screams

    '“The overwhelming support for this law shows Mainers agree that we can’t let technology or tech companies dictate the contours of our core constitutional rights."'

    Full marks to Maine, but elsewhere they probably do already. On May 28th the UK was granted a data protection Adequacy Decision by the EU.

    Recital 25 of the decision states "The principles of lawfulness, fairness and transparency and the grounds for lawful processing are guaranteed in the law of the United Kingdom through Articles 5(1)(a) and 6(1) of the UK GDPR, which are identical to the respective provisions in Regulation (EU) 2016/679". However Recital 49 states "Data subjects should be informed of the main features of the processing of their personal data." (emphasis added).

    This, despite being what is at best actually happening everywhere, expressly contravenes Article 5.1(b) of the GDPR (and thus currently the UK's legislation), which states that personal data must be "collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes ..." (emphasis added). So, according to the Adequacy Decision, nobody seems to be required to actually comply with the law - probably because these pesky regulations get in the way of corporate profit making and the lobby is powerful.

    Why does this matter? Because you have statutory rights to control how your personal data are used, but if you haven't been told how they're used, you can't exercise those rights. And that's a breach, not of data law but of human rights law.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The future looks great!

    For machine-kind anyway.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: The future looks great!

      Machine-kind aren't there yet. But they need to be. Don't YOU want a robot butler? (I do!)

      the Electronic Frontier Foundation would prefer to see more measured limitations on facial-recognition technology on the basis that some uses can be positive.

      I agree with this position, primarily for robot design. An AI brain will need some way to visually recognize humans from apes, dogs, cats, and dolls. And other robots.

      Being able to tell one human from another is also necessary, as well as recognizing basic facial expressions (and when they're being faked or mocked). Doing so SHOULD be as natural to a robot as it is to another human or to an animal. It's not "mass surveilance" for a robot's facial recognition to simulate that of a human. in fact, with enough faces, people start seeing individuals as "the masses" (this happens at around 100). And it would take too much processing power away from important tasks for a robot to mass surveil everyone that comes across its field of vision.

      Still it might be important for bots to notice familiar faces. That database, if small, won't be useful for spying on the general public. It would just mean that the hundreds of faces the robot came across were not recognized as 'familiar' whereas the one face that gets recognized (family friend, co-worker, checker at the grocery store) is a lot like one human recognizing another.

      So it's not so much about BANNING the technology, but the banning the MISUSE of it. And that's a lot harder to do. But history proves that banning a thing outright only means that THOSE WHO ARE CRIMINALS (and evil governments) will be the only ones using and developing it. Sub in "encryption", for example, in place of 'facial recognition', for a possible parallel.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: The future looks great!

        "So it's not so much about BANNING the technology, but the banning the MISUSE of it."

        Problem is, some things are just too tempting. Meaning their USE inevitably (due to the human condition) results in their MISUSE. As in, we just can't have nice things...

  4. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Big Brother


    The genie is out of the bottle.

    Trying to stuff it back in is probably a hiding to nothing.

    I can't believe that any technology with such a high error rate is anywhere acceptable; using for law enforcement purposes - as in, I wonder who's in this crowd? Ah, yes, he look suspicious, I wonder who he is, let's go and arrest him - is downright despicable.

    Whatever happened to 'innocent until proven guilty' and 'who I am is none of your damn business'?

    1. John Sturdy

      Re: Sadly

      Unfortunately, an even less reliable technology --- polygraphy --- is acceptable for law enforcement purposes in various places, prominently in the USA. So I doubt that the unreliability of facial recognition technology is going to be much of an obstacle to its adoption.

      1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

        Re: Sadly

        "polygraphy --- is acceptable for law enforcement purposes in various places, prominently in the USA"

        Not as far as I know. I'd need to see a citation where the laws surrounding it have changed.

        What it is good for is psyching suspects out. I've heard that more interesting information can be gleaned from people chatting with them while setting up the equipment or taking it off. Not that this will be admissible in court either. But if you are looking for buried bodies (for example) small talk about where good camping sites are might lead somewhere.

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "facial recognition is dangerous no matter who is using it"

    Bless you Caitlin. Go on fighting the good fight.

    I wish you the best of luck.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: "facial recognition is dangerous no matter who is using it"

      Nuclear weapons are dangerous so we shouldn't be building or deploying them.

      The list is endless. The fact is that facial recognition isn't a 'big tech' thing, its an algorithm, so its going to turn up everywhere sooner or later. Like voice recognition, gait recognition or any of the 101 techniques used to uniquely identify humans (or animals). I think that passing laws prohibiting it is a waste of time, it will be deployed whether we like it or not. We have to learn to live with it -- maybe confuse it, maybe deal with those who might misuse it, but pretending that genie is going back into its bottle is a fool's errand.

  6. Steven Guenther

    Best thing about Pandemic - masks

    Now you can just wear a mask anytime you don't want to be recognized. It is much more normal to do that now. In Maine you have been able to wear snow mask and seem normal. Mask up and geezer sunglasses. Protect the future.

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