As I’ve documented here before Biometrics and other assorted forms of global mass surveillance technologies have become a part of our world that we can no longer escape. The seeming inevitability of a Technological- Technocratic Panoptican is a reality we must face going forward into the future.While the Paradigm of Public safety/Security from Terrorism that enshrined the foundations of this system have faded from the Corporate media’s spotlight,with 2020 and the “global pandemic” of Covid-19 we’ve entered into a new paradigm, that of Bio-security and Medical martial law.
And so I rounded up these series of Articles closing out 2020 with the theme of Biometrics and Facial recognition and their continual incremental encroaching upon citizens privacy and civil liberties.
2020 was the year of the Mask. While the effectiveness of such a measure against the Novel coronavirus is somewhat contested and vigorously opposed by some,Face masks became the defining feature and social divisor of 2020. Since the majority of the population was forced to wear masks, that presented a bit of a problem with existing facial recognition technology. While most liberty minded people,and those opposed to Orwellian intrusion saw this a good thing, The US govt obviously did not….But fear not citizens because D.H.S. is working around that problem to protect you (?) from ” security threats” No Terrorist in a face diaper is going to foil D.H.S. No Sir!!!!!
The Homeland Security Department, one of the government’s biggest biometrics systems users, is now steering research to confront the complexities limiting existing technology and help push forward tools to safely verify people’s identities at security checkpoints in a pandemic. Initial results from one recent effort “are actually quite promising,” Using not Photoshop but a tool like it, NIST created digital masks over faces in DHS operational images. Officials subsequently compared how facial recognition algorithms performed on those photos, as well as images of the same people without synthetic masks edited on to cover their faces.
Conducted at the Maryland Test Facility, the latest rally put those face and/or iris acquisition systems to work, as well as 13 matching algorithms—with support from 582 human volunteers. With the heaps of photos collected, DHS is able to essentially standardize image output and get a strong grip on what all the cameras are capturing. The systems are able to hone in on unique human features such as head shape, and faces’ periocular region—or the areas around individuals’ eyes—that remain uncovered when masks are worn.
DHS selected six systems to test this go-around, which is fewer than usual for such events but made sense to abide by COVID-19 protocols
Phew…what a relief to know that while forging tech to invade on the public’s privacy,no volunteers were exposed to COVID. My virtue signal receptors are pleased to hear that…..
Drones to police the Drones
Within the past 2 years we have seen an exponential rise in the commercial/privatized use of Drones. While the military has popularized their use as flying messengers of death, the use of drones in the private sector has found a new utility- Surveillance of the populace. You can call it Drones watching Drones. In real life scenarios that seem to mirror some of the most dystopian sci fi visions of films like They live,or Captive state, have now come to pass. Drones are now being used to fight the new “invisible enemy” COVID-19. Drone company Draganfly made more than a few headlines,by getting itself involved with projects related to surveillance and tracking of suspected Covid infections. Draganfly partnered with the Australian DOD and got in on the action with the near draconian lockdowns in Australia. And it doesn’t just stop there:
The goal, say organizers, is not to identify sick individuals. Instead, it will collect real-time statistical data about the possible spread of the disease. Drones are just part of this system, which will leverage other cameras around the world, such as CCTV cameras. They will all feed images and video into software developed by healthcare and AI company Vital Intelligence, Inc. – Dronedj.com
So it’s a small Globally surveilled world after all….
And so temperature scanning and facial recognition are just the beginning,IARPA (Intelligence advanced research projects activity) has put forth proposals to improve upon facial recognition and to go beyond that by integrating more Biometrics capability into ranged Drones.
The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, or IARPA, issued a broad agency announcement solicitation for its latest attempt to improve biometrics at range, the Biometric Recognition and Identification at Altitude and Range, or BRIAR, program. (Boy they sure do love Acronym’s)
The BRIAR program aims to develop software algorithm-based systems capable of performing whole-body biometric identification at long-range and from elevated platforms,” the call states, outlining a three-phase process to prototype and test novel ways to incorporate multiple biometric signatures—such as face, gait and body type—to improve identification and verification at long ranges and steep angles. The BRIAR program will combine multiple biometric factors, including face, stride and “anthropometric classifications” like height and gender to improve match rates.
And just to appeal to the PC virtue signaling crowd : “The program also hopes to attune for racial diversity by using “robust, demographically diverse, domain-relevant biometric data,” . Whatever that innocuous statement means…. The fact is that this surveillance tech is not only detrimental to all citizens privacy,but that it has also been utilized disproportionately against minorities .
2020 had become the year of Global lockdown’s (setting a precedent for 2021?) Surveillance,Tracking and Political repression have all been justified with the “threat” of COVID-19, As noted before Australia and other Asian nations have had the largest increases in public surveillance due to the COVID pandemic. Not more than 2 years ago it seemed as though worldwide a majority of the world’s population were pissed off for one reason or another and were willing to get out in the streets to push back against governments and their overreach. But then Covid-19 came along and the global lockdowns began,with nary a word of protest in response to the “justified” draconian measures.
Public Consciousness is key in opposing Mass surveillance
While the Surveillance state continues to grow by leaps and bounds, there have been a few roadblocks offered up by the public in response to these intrusions into the public’s privacy. The aforementioned Dragnfly Pandemic temperature scanning drone program that was to be rolled out in Westport CT saw enough citizen response that the police dept was forced to axe the entire “Flatten the curve” pilot program.
Various Public advocacy groups voiced their concerns over,and called for a halt to a proposed Customs and Border protection plan involving Biometric data collection. The U.S. Customs and border protection (USCBP) had proposed an expansion of it’s own biometric data collection capabilities in September of 2020, the proposal sought to add the collection of palm prints, photographs for facial recognition, voice prints, iris images and DNA for tests to determine genetic relationships to its pre-existing biometric practices, which include collecting fingerprints and signatures of immigrants. Where that will ultimately go remains to be seen.
In New York State Facial recognition being used in schools was banned,being the first state to officially stop(for now) the deployment of these technologies in a public education setting. The law didn’t create a permanent ban,but rather a temporary stop on it’s use until 2022.
In June, the ACLU of New York sued the state education department over the installation of a facial recognition system in Lockport City Schools, a district near Niagara Falls. The state’s approval of this technology showed a “dangerous lack of oversight and an alarming misunderstanding of the way it analyzes student data,” the civil liberties group said. The implementation of the system violated students’ rights to privacy, the lawsuit argued, because the district wanted to sync their data to local, state, and federal crime databases.
School officials defended the system, saying it would help identify school shooters as they enter the building, allowing shootings to be prevented.
And so there you go with the old tried and true appeal to “public safety”, or the even sappier “keeping your kids safe from drugs and violence”, while indoctrinating them to accept a system of Mass surveillance and no personal privacy. As these technologies continue to develop,and are increasingly marketed to the public sector it’s up to us The public to stay informed of how,and when these technologies are being used against us. While the global surveillance industry will continually take advantage of the public’s vulnerabilities to “security risks” it’s important to remember that it won’t just stop there,The Covid pandemic and it’s response highlight that we are moving into a post security and Terrorism oriented (indoctrinated?) world,and that now even Bodily autonomy is at risk of being seized all in the name of “Protection”