One big reason: Western governments are embracing this technology for their own use, valuing security and data collection over privacy and civil liberties. And in Washington, President Donald Trump’s impeachment and the death of a key civil rights and privacy champion have snarled expectations for a congressional drive to enact restrictions.
The result is an impasse that has left tech companies largely in control of where and how to deploy facial recognition, which they have sold to police agencies and embedded in consumers’ apps and smartphones. The stalemate has persisted even in Europe’s most privacy-minded countries, such as Germany, and despite a bipartisan U.S. alliance of civil-libertarian Democrats and Republicans.
Advocates for tighter regulations point to China as an example of the technology’s nightmare potential, amid reports authorities are using it to indiscriminately track citizens in public, identify pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong and oppress millions of Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang. Current implementations of the software also perpetuate racial bias by misidentifying people of color far more frequently than white people, according to a U.S. government study released just before Congress left town for Christmas.