Facial recognition creeps up on a JetBlue passenger and she hates it

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「"There's nothing to worry about."

Every time I hear those words, I start worrying.

This may be because I've heard them uttered a little too often by tech CEOs who are subsequently shown to enjoy all the honesty of a congressperson's PR representative.

I therefore well up with sympathy toward writer MacKenzie Fegan, who endured a troubling encounter last week with JetBlue's facial recognition technology, first introduced last year.

Naturally, she took to Twitter to register her troubles.

She began: "I just boarded an international @JetBlue flight. Instead of scanning my boarding pass or handing over my passport, I looked into a camera before being allowed down the jet bridge. Did facial recognition replace boarding passes, unbeknownst to me? Did I consent to this?"

A funny thing, consent. Sometimes, you have no idea you've already given it. Sometimes, you haven't given it at all.」

And now we are beginning to receive facial recognition at international airports - Sad times are ahead of us. This situation in particular is opt-out rather than opt-in which conditions people so it feels natural and causes normalization of surveillance. The people are uninformed about opting out, or rather not even being told about it, but in most cases they won't care anyway and will go with the flow.

「JetBlue, as all good airlines do, was ready to offer Twitterized sympathy: "You're able to opt out of this procedure, MacKenzie. Sorry if this made you feel uncomfortable."」

How about you actually inform people beforehand that you can opt-out instead of after the damage has been done? How nice of you to abuse people and use them as data points.

「But once you start thinking about these things, your thoughts become darker. Fegan wanted to know how JetBlue knew what she looked like.

JetBlue explained: "The information is provided by the United States Department of Homeland Security from existing holdings."

Fegan wondered by what right a private company suddenly had her bioemtric data.

JetBlue insisted it doesn't have access to the data. It's "securely transmitted to the Customs and Border Protection database."

I just boarded an international @JetBlue flight. Instead of scanning my boarding pass or handing over my passport, I looked into a camera before being allowed down the jet bridge. Did facial recognition replace boarding passes, unbeknownst to me? Did I consent to this?

— MacKenzie Fegan (@mackenzief) April 17, 2019

Ah, our old friend securely. The only thing you can be sure about that concept is that it isn't very secure.

Fegan wanted to know how this could have possibly happened so quickly. Could it be that in just a few seconds her biometric data was whipped "securely" around government departments so that she would be allowed on the plane?

JetBlue referred her to an article on the subject, which was a touch on the happy-PR side. Fegan was moved, but not positively, by the phrase "there is no pre-registration required." 」

So the government is storing biometric/biometric data at the airports for private companies to use and is probably stored forever. "There is no pre-registration required." Naturally no one would really bother to register for mostly one off instances and the facious recognition technology would end up rarely being used. For the sake of surveillance its easier to just use it, abuse it, and to not properly inform people and hope nobody cares or notices.

「Others weighed in to explain that her passport information was already in the database. The only difference here, said the wise, is that the machines look at your face and not your passport picture.

But wait. Fegan's reaction is what happens when real people start thinking about the technology that's being foisted upon them.

Tech companies are quite brilliant at sliding their latest brainwaves into the public sphere before those who implement them -- and those who are forced to be the objects of them -- consider the consequences.」

There is a big difference between having your facial features and biometrics scanned to be matched with a gigantic database and just having a real person confirm your identity with your passport. Real people thinking about the technology being used against them - Wow that is some wishful thinking and a bit too optimistic. I can only hope that people actually start thinking than to use the usual excuse "Nothing to hide".

「The technology appears to solve one problem -- speeding up the security and boarding processes -- and in it goes.

JetBlue isn't the only airline that's already using facial recognition. Delta enjoys it at Atlanta airport. The airline claims it will save you nine whole minutes.」

Holy fucking shit! All that facial recognition bullshit to supposedly speed up security and the boarding process by a whopping 9 minutes! What a god damn joke. People are willing to give up their biometric data to save such litle time? What is wrong with us? Convenience is just destroying us.

「Yet if you extrapolate the use of facial recognition to an everyday occurrence -- which Apple already does with the occasionally erratic Face ID -- a few horrors tend to unfold.

It isn't just that the technology can be inaccurate, especially when it comes to certain skin colors.

Imagine that, soon, everywhere you go you'll be immediately recognizable.

It's not just that cameras will know you're there. It's that they'll know precisely who you are. And, given the rivers of data that flow uncontrolled around the web, a store, a restaurant, or an airport will, within seconds, know if you're rich, poor, divorced, angst-ridden, and/or a fan of Ska music.」

Fuck my anonymity huh. It is no one's god damn business to know my wealth, marital status, interests, etc. at all unless I voluntarily give that information away. Just give me the services or products that I paid for and be done with it. It is without a doubt that this data will be abused to shit my brain with targetted ads that I don't need to potentially control me. I also don't need shit to be decided for me or be rejected services because thats what an algorithm thinks is best for me.

Some supplementary insightful comments courtesy of Slashdot:

Re:How is this camera any different?

「It's not this particular incident that bothers me, it's the implications of it all.

1) It means that the government is storing biometric data on everyone going through airports. This is probably not ephemeral and will be saved forever.

2) It means that Jet Blue and the US Government are in, some way, sharing biometric data about its users. etc.」

In reply to someone else:

「There's a big difference between "show my driver's license to an agent, who visually identifies me and will forget what I look like 5 seconds after I leave" versus "automated system that will store that data forever".

It's "just a photo" - that's tied to your identity. That automated systems can use to identify you. I make it sound scary because it honestly is. Imagine a world where "to protect the interests of the store", a system that you cannot opt out of, is used to identify "known thieves" in a store, and links back to national databases. Now imagine if you're falsely accused of a crime, and now you're tagged forever in this system and cannot shop anywhere. The setting is different (store vs airport), but, I could definitely foresee this being a future of this technology. It has moral and ethical concerns.」

Technology does not move backwards

「Facial recognition tech exists. Therefore it will be used. It's getting better and cheaper, therefore it will be used more and more. That's the reality. It is inevitable.

You can't hold it back. Trying is a waste of time and diverts attention from measures that might help.

You need to reform/police the institutions that you imagine might abuse the tech.」

Wrong question.

「"by what right a private company suddenly had her bioemtric (sic) data."

Wrong question. More to the point, "by what right a private company suddenly had permission to use her bioemtric (sic) data, without her express permission."

And of course, the answer will always be either 'you agreed to, right here, somewhere', or 'it's the government, and they have the right because you...'

Rights and permissions are not entirely the same thing.」