Bloomberg pushes biz & tech but an ethical discussion is needed first

Note – a bit different here and maybe ‘bad practice’ but I will paste the email I received from Bloomberg this morning …

here’s my issue: the acceptance or rejection of facial recognition technology in social settings where ‘subjects’ did not OPT-IN is an ethical discussion for us as citizens. Bloomberg turned to a business or technology discussion without really addressing the ethics. I find this backwards. Let’s understand the ethics and the unintended consequences of the technology before wide implementation – Facebook worked out just fine, right?

Pasted below

Hi all, it’s Eric. Portland, Oregon just became the least friendly city in the country for facial recognition. Its city council unanimously passed two bills this week related to the technology, one prohibiting local government agencies from using the technology, and the other banning many uses by private companies. The bans come just as companies are starting to experiment with what facial recognition might make possible, and they highlight a Catch-22 when it comes to regulating technology. If the government bans a risky or ethically dubious new technology, society might never learn how it could have benefited. If the government is too slow, people can become attached to a new technology in ways that make it hard to get rid of. Imagine an alternate reality where San Francisco had succeeded in quickly shutting down Uber Technology Inc.’s business because it violated taxi regulations. It would have been much harder for Uber to make the case that its services were meaningfully superior to taxis without an example of its plan in action. But once Uber became ubiquitous, it became nearly impossible for local governments to root it out, even as many leaders became convinced that ride-hailing had always violated labor laws. Even technologies that many consumers hate, like ad tracking software, can be hard to get rid of once they are deployed widely. Apple Inc. has been working to crack down on tracking tools that enable targeted ads, but it delayed the changes after advertising companies complained. Some obvious objections have already emerged about facial recognition. For one, it has proven to be less accurate in identifying non-white people. It also arguably violates the expectation that people have that they will be anonymous in public spaces. Both of these points raise significant questions about facial recognition’s use by law enforcement agencies. Still, until facial recognition is actually applied in real world situations, its proponents won’t have many victories to tout. People may decide they’re willing to give up some privacy if the technology leads to a few murder convictions. Customers may see little harm in allowing stores to use facial recognition if it actually leads to them being able to check out without waiting in line. So maybe regulation of the kind Portland is testing is a good way to regulate a controversial new technology. If any level of government is going to experiment with tech bans, cities may actually make the most sense. Companies, of course, will hate it, because they’ll have to operate differently in different places. Facebook Inc. has already ran afoul of an Illinois law placing restrictions on facial recognition. But innovation in public policy has to happen somewhere. Portland can cling to the present while residents of other cities plow into a machine-monitored future.—Eric Newcomer

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