First, they stopped facial recognition from coming to Coachella. Now they want to protect universities.
Prolific digital rights activism organization Fight for the Future has partnered with the group Students for Sensible Drug Policy to stop facial recognition technology from coming to college campuses.
The coalition put out a petition that students, faculty, employees, and community members can sign demanding that university administrations “clarify policies” on contracting with security companies that use facial recognition, and that they ultimately not use the tech at all.
The campaign also provides a toolkit for members of student governments to introduce resolutions to ban the controversial technology. However, student governments usually don’t have control over university policies.
In addition to facial recognition’s general creepiness, studies show it more frequently misidentifies people of color. Experts say that this technological bias could lead to harmful mistakes by law enforcement, and its use could deter freedom of speech and assembly.
Fight for the Future recently succeeded in getting major festivals including Coachella and live events behemoth Ticketmaster to disavow any planned use of facial recognition at festivals.
Facial recognition has also prompted debate and concern in primary and high schools. New York’s Lockport School District planned to use facial recognition to prevent school shootings — a popular marketing angle for the tech, but its effectiveness is far from proven.
Following community and national outrage over using children in its test, the district abandoned its plans. A New York state bill also sought to ban the tech.
Those privacy victories doesn’t mean the tech isn’t coming, and fast. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol already uses facial recognition at 15 airports, and plans to expand it to scan the faces of people leaving the United States on commercial flights. Police departments are also already using tech sold by Amazon.
College campuses have long been at the center of debates over civil liberties like freedom of speech. Now, in 2020, the right to privacy takes center stage.