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LGBTQ groups warn of risks of new facial recognition technology

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Facial recognition technology

LGBTQ groups warn of risks of new facial recognition technology

Two years ago, LGBTQ groups were worried that facial recognition might be used to profile them. With the rapid development of facial recognition technology, this future risk is slowly becoming real.

Because of this, several LGBTQ organizations warn of the risks of this technology being used to discriminate, harass, or even steal their identity without appropriate government controls.

Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari had also warned that homophobic governments are already using technology to go after the LGBTQ community– what more with facial recognition technology?

The future risks of facial recognition technology

Seven LGBTQ organizations, including LGBT Tech and the National Center for Transgender Equality, urged Congress to place a moratorium on the use of the technology for law enforcement and immigration enforcement purposes.

The letter said this moratorium should last until privacy-related restrictions can be developed for th e technology.

Gillian Branstetter, media relations manager for the National Center for Transgender Equality, told Washington Blade in a statement: “The technologies most frequently sold by vendors have proven biases against women and people of color born of inaccuracies and oversights in their development.”

The LGBTQ organizations joined 29 civil liberties, privacy rights, civil rights, investor, and faith groups in the letter drafted by the ACLU urging for the moratorium.

In the letter, it warned that: “The FBI has access to over 400 million photos for face matching, including the driver’s license databases of over fifteen states and passport application photos, has performed hundreds of thousands of face recognition searches, and is now reportedly piloting new uses of the technology.”

“This capability threatens to create a world where people are watched and identified as they attend a protest, congregate outside a place of worship, visit a medical provider, or simply go about their daily lives,” the ACLU letter said.

Using facial recognition technology to breach privacy

In an op-ed column for TechCrunch, LGBT Tech deputy director and general counsel Carlos Gutierrez wrote about the risks of the rampant, unguided use of the technology.

“Without proper oversight, facial recognition technology has the potential to exacerbate existing inequalities and make daily life challenging and dangerous for LGBTQ+ individuals,” Gutierrez wrote.

“In the wrong hands, a person’s previously undisclosed sexual orientation or gender identity can become a tool for discrimination, harassment, or harm to their life or livelihood,” he said.

What’s more, he said: “The risks to transgender, nonbinary, or gender non-conforming individuals are even more acute.”

““Members of the LGBTQ+ community cannot shoulder the burden of lax digital privacy standards without also assuming unnecessary risks to their safety online and offline,” he warned.

The future of LGBTQ discrimination using technology

Noted Israel historian and writer Yuval Noah Harari wrote in an article in the Guardian last June 22 of the dangers facing the LGBTQ community, especially from homophobic governments.

“People will not be able to escape persecution by retreating back into the closet, because new technologies are breaking it apart,” Harari said.

For example, he pointed out that a future homophobic regime wants can hack the databases of gay dating sites.

In fact, the Chinese firm Kunlun bought Grindr in 2016. The US government warned Kunlun in March 2019 its ownership of Grindr “constitutes a national security risk” and wanted them to sell it by 2020.

Harari said: “There was no explanation given for why Chinese ownership of a gay dating site constitutes a national security risk, but I trust that by now you can answer that question yourself.”

While “technology is not inherently bad,” Harari said: “the message is that technology makes the political stakes higher than ever.”

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