As the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001 approaches, Big Brother Washington is planning to expand the use of facial recognition technology and continue turning America into an Orwellian surveillance state.
Ever since terrorists crashed commercial airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, our overlords in Washington have been pushing a liberty-killing agenda that bears a frightening resemblance to the world George Orwell described in his novel, 1984.
Big Brother Washington’s plan to expand the use of facial recognition technology and create a surveillance state sounds exactly like the face-scanning technology used by The Party described by Orwell in his novel to identify a “facecrime” against the state:
It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself – anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offense. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called.
The Party’s surveillance tactics and technology are so advanced that even the smallest twitch can betray a rebellious spirit.
– 1984, Book 1, Chapter 5, George Orwell
Over the past few years, facial recognition technology has grown in popularity at the state and local levels of government; especially with law enforcement. And just like the federal government version, liberty has been sacrificed on the altar of the surveillance state.
In July 2019, concerns were raised about the dangerous threat to liberty caused by facial recognition technology and in a hearing before Congress, officials from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) defended government’s use of facial recognition technology in airports and border areas.
According to John Wagner, who was with CBP at the time, the face-scanning project known as Biometric Entry/Exit was “absolutely not a surveillance program.” An ironic claim considering that the Congressional hearing was being held due to government’s ability to do just that.
Over the past few years, the abuse of facial recognition technology has proven to be as destructive to liberty as many warned it would be. Police officers across the country have misused confidential law enforcement databases, not to obtain information on potential criminals, but to get information on romantic partners, business associates, neighbors, journalists and others for reasons that have nothing to do with daily police work.
Coronavirus hysteria has made expanding the use of facial recognition technology even more popular with Big Brother Washington now that it has been refined to focus on the eyes and noses of masked faces.
Whether due to the events of 9/11 or the so-called coronavirus pandemic — most likely just a desire to destroy liberty — a new report released earlier this week by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that Big Brother Washington is planning to expand the use of facial recognition technology in the next few years (via TheHill.com):
At least 10 federal agencies are planning to expand their use of facial recognition technology in the next few years, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released earlier this week.
The departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Interior, Justice, State, Treasury and Veterans Affairs all told the watchdog that they will grow their capabilities by 2023.
The GAO surveyed 24 agencies overall about their use of the controversial technology, finding that most of them use it for things like allowing employees to unlock agency smartphones or enter buildings.
Six agencies reported using facial recognition for generating leads or identifying victims in criminal investigations.
The report comes amid rising scrutiny of the technology that is still unregulated at the federal level.
Several privacy advocates have raised concerns that even if facial recognition can be made accurate, it still constitutes an overreach of state and law enforcement surveillance power.
Three states and more than a dozen cities have stepped in to ban or restrict the use of facial recognition while the federal government has stalled on regulations. (emphasis mine)
On of those privacy advocates is the Electronic Privacy Information Center. During the July 2019 hearings, they led a coalition of 35 organizations calling on Congress to halt the use of facial recognition technology on the general public due to the threat it posed to privacy and civil liberties.
“The use of face recognition technology by DHS poses serious risks to privacy and civil liberties, threatens immigrants, broadly impacts American citizens, and has been implemented without proper safeguards in place or explicit Congressional approval.
“Congress should not permit the continued use of face recognition in the United States, absent safeguards to prevent such abuses.”
Alas, Washington isn’t all that concerned about such trivial matters as privacy and liberty when it comes to facial recognition technology, not when they can use it to build a surveillance state.
Big Brother continues to provide bogus assurances that tracking technologies like facial recognition won’t lead to a surveillance state and that it will only be used for security purposes, but a recent study conducted by Scientific Reports shows how the technology is capable of doing exactly what George Orwell described in excerpt from 1984 I provided above.
Pervasive surveillance is not the only risk brought about by facial recognition. Apart from identifying individuals, the algorithms can identify individuals’ personal attributes, as some of them are linked with facial appearance. Like humans, facial recognition algorithms can accurately infer gender, age, ethnicity, or emotional state. Unfortunately, the list of personal attributes that can be inferred from the face extends well beyond those few obvious examples. (emphasis mine)
I’ve mentioned this in the past, but the assault on liberty and our constitutional rights reminds me of a quote from the C.S. Lewis novel, The Screwtape Letters, where Screwtape is giving his nephew Wormword advice on how to lead his subjects to hell:
“Indeed, the safest road to hell is the gradual one, the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
America was put on the “safe[ty] road” when Islamic terrorists attacked us nearly 20 years ago and gave the government a perfect opportunity to destroy liberty and freedom in the name of safety and security.
Big Brother’s plan to expand facial recognition technology is simply another step down the road to tyrannical hell.
David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable for their failure to uphold conservative values, and he promotes those values instead of political parties.