Our faces are often exposed and, unlike passwords or pin numbers, cannot be remade. Governments and businesses, often working in partnership, are increasingly using our faces to track our whereabouts, activities, and associations. This is why EFF recently submitted comments to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which is preparing a report on face recognition technology (FRT).   

In our submission, we reiterated our stance that there should be a ban on governmental use of FRT and strict regulations on private use because it: (1) is not reliable enough to be used in determinations affecting constitutional and statutory rights or social benefits; (2) is a menace to social justice as its errors are far more pronounced when applied to people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and other marginalized groups; (3) threatens privacy rights; (4) chills and deters expression; and (5) creates information security risks.

Despite these grave concerns, FRT is being used by the government and law enforcement agencies with increasing frequency, and sometimes with devastating effects. At least one Black woman and five Black men have been wrongfully arrested due to misidentification by FRT: Porcha Woodruff, Michael Oliver, Nijeer Parks, Randal Reid, Alonzo Sawyer, and Robert Williams. And Harvey Murphy Jr., a white man, was wrongfully arrested due to FRT misidentification, and then sexually assaulted while in jail.

Even if FRT was accurate, or at least equally inaccurate across demographics, it would still severely impact our privacy and security. We cannot change our face, and we expose it to the mass surveillance networks already in place every day we go out in public. But doing that should not be license for the government or private entities to make imprints of our face and retain that data, especially when that data may be breached by hostile actors.

The government should ban its own use of FRT, and strictly limit private use, to protect us from the threats posed by FRT. 

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