FS 20 The Right to One's Own Image

Study Guide

In modern society, pictures get taken every second. Even the ones the population actively knows about cause big controversies. Now, with the recent developments in software engineering and high-resolution cameras, the number of pictures taken for security purposes is rising. These pictures get taken without actively asking for consent and many don’t even know that they are being photographed. Slowly, resistance is rising against the omnipresent observation.

The vast observation justifies its existence with the protection it provides. After 9/11, people became aware that they are not always safe in their own countries and the fear of terrorism spread quickly across the globe. The public demand for better security pushed many states to spend huge amounts of money developing facial recognition software. But until now, it is not fully proven how accurate the different programs actually are. Some experts say that there may be wrong convictions based on camera footage, thus basing evidence on facial recognition. Other experts say, due to how far the technology has come, it is simply impossible to live anonymously in big cities. It is difficult to test the performance of facial recognition software, as it is hard to draw lines between tests done in labs and the real world. The divergence between laboratory settings and the real world has been shown in a recent experiment: Results from a test conducted under laboratory conditions suggested that a program showed a success rate of around 99%. However, later it was shown that this particular program only had a success rate of about 65% when it came to women of colour. Furthermore, states have been accused of hiding or manipulating the test results in order to create a false sense of security amongst the population. With this lack of certainty, many criticise how far the business has come. In some parts of China, for example, there is one CCTV camera (close circuit television) per 5.9 citizens. In addition to that, China is the biggest exporter of surveillance systems, providing them to at least 18 nations. Some of these nations allegedly use facial recognition for systematic censorship and even persecution of minorities. There is a lack of international regulations in order to prevent these dangerous dynamics. Moreover, an immense amount of personal data is stored by companies within countries the photographed individual has no ties to, making it almost impossible to exercise one’s right to one’s own image. With these worrying legal loopholes, one could only hope that the business is not growing too fast. Ironically enough, this is exactly what is happening. The business with CCTV (close circuit television) is booming and even very small companies offer these systems and are storing huge amounts of images. That also bears the question of how safe the pictures are from being hacked and how long the different companies keep the images stored.

Another aspect, which is entirely unregulated on the world stage, is that facial recognition not only uses pictures taken by security cameras but also browses through the Internet connecting one’s image to social media accounts and workplace images. Facebook and other big network companies are unsuccessfully demanding facial recognition companies to stop using images from their platforms. If this trend continues, facial recognition could be the ultimate piece in making human life entirely transparent.



Sources/further reading

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-50865437 https://edition.cnn.com/2020/02/12/opinions/clearview-facial-recognition-app-danger- alaimo/index.html https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/feb/14/clearview-ai-facial-recognition- technology