Let’s talk about facial identification technology again!
While we’re at it, we’ll get more Libertarian than usual.
I’ve done this before. In 2011, I tried to find a silver lining to it. Right now, when you have to pass a background check just to rent an apartment, they can make you pay to be surveilled. But within a decade or two, all our movements will be tracked by a massive network of artificial intelligence machines operating with all the surveillance videos needed. Your background check could be a free online search. Yay, technology.
Last year, we learned China built such a surveillance system for their own state purposes — using not only face identification but also voice identification technology — to keep tabs on Uyghurs in Xinjiang province and facilitate the rounding up of suspected dissidents. They set up video cameras every hundred meters or so along city streets, which could be monitored remotely in real time. They even put cameras at the entrances of mosques.
Other countries have experimented with similar technology. The United States, for example.
Remember the Real ID law Washington state has valiantly resisted implementing for so long? The drivers’ licenses and IDs with the readable chips? Well, there’s more to it than that.
Even if you haven’t gotten the enhanced ID yet, if you’ve renewed your ID lately and they took a new photo of you for it, that photo joined a national database that currently holds photos of nearly 120 million adult Americans.
When I last renewed my state ID a few months ago, I noticed that now seemingly everyone gets a new photo upon renewal. They used to skip it if the old photo still looked like you in the opinion of a human licensing department worker. They let my photo stay the same through two renewals, until my hair turned white. But now it has to look like you in the opinion of an AI program. So, stand on the yellow line, face forward, chin up.
At the rate we’re going, not only will face masks be illegal (interferes with facial identification), but so will beards and tattoos. Because, national security.
So far, the photos have mainly just been used to help figure out who’s who in mug shots, they say. But you know, as much as Trump admires the Chinese get’r-done methods, we’re going to have real-time state video surveillance just like the Chinese, provided Trump is around long enough to make it happen. Stay tuned.
Speaking of IDs, you are all going to have to get the enhanced ID in this state about one year from now or not have any ID at all. The Empire has won this battle, and the Resistance has lost. I expect Libertarians to cry a tear or two.
I didn’t get my enhanced ID yet because when I went to the licensing office to renew my ID, I was surprised to hear the document I have been able to use for the last 38 years to prove I’m a natural -born citizen is no longer accepted. This conversation actually happened: “Hey, Joe! Are these birth record cards ever accepted now? No? Never? Sorry.” So, I have to write away for better evidence.
This doesn’t pose much of a problem for me. I’m sure I’ll get what I need. But what about the hundreds of thousands of citizens of this country who are without ID as it is, and can’t obtain ID without already having ID? When does the federal government start classifying people caught in that trap as non-citizens?
When does “undocumented” become synonymous with “alien,” setting up any person to be incarcerated in a camp to await deportation?
And how long before a corrupt government realizes that all it has to do to put someone in that position is arrest them, take away their ID upon detention, and neglect to return it upon release?
Wasn’t that the intended endgame of the Real ID Act anyway? Why else force everyone to prove citizenship, except to deny rights to those who can’t, even for reasons manufactured by the government itself?
Speaking of, another perpetual worry:
What if Lois Lane had access to facial identification technology?
“What? Clark Kent is Superman? Really? But, but ... what about the curly lock of hair? What about Clark’s near-sightedness? Superman isn’t near-sighted! I’m sure Clark would never wear red panties with blue tights! No way!”
“Oh well, I guess if the artificially smart machine says so….”
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd. He can be reached at drwes (at) realchangenews (dot) org
Read the full October 9 - 15 issue.
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