Friend or Foe: The Struggle for Privacy
Technology is one of those topics that incite a different perspective depending on who you talk to: while one may perceive it as a convenience factor, others may grieve it due to its undeniable contribution to the decline of face-to-face human interaction. Consequently, as the breadth of technology’s application widens, so does the pool of opinions and contentions. The worry and paranoia derived from fingerprint to voice to face recognition, just to list a few problems, are shared by many due to the growing concerns around cyber-security and ethics.
The newest iPhone line is garnering massive public attention, in particular through its clever marketing strategy of putting emphasis on face recognition. Apple is capitalizing on the notion that the overall user experience is faster and easier than ever. In conjunction, the trendy, alternative form of communication known as “Animoji”, which works on the basis of face recognition, appeals to the younger generation and thus, face recognition is introduced in a trendsetting manner. While it may seem like a benign feature, this relatively new innovation is where we should pose the question: to what extent is this feature being used and more importantly, when and how? One concern that was posed was whether it would be used as an authentication or an identification feature (Pringle), with the former being a tool to unlock a phone and the latter being used for surveillance. For example, Amazon was met with privacy activists urging the company not to sell a face recognition tool to law enforcement as they believed it may pose a threat to individual freedom and rights to privacy, thus possibly limiting one’s free speech (“Police Use of Amazon Face-Recognition Technology Alarms Privacy Advocates”). The situation becomes increasingly alarming as the application of this feature is normalized. Although the intentions of the companies may be different, critically speaking, the enforcement of this feature on the streets to recognize, identify and track unaware civilians is comparable to unsolicited videography. In both cases, the lack of consent can lead to discomfort.
Further, paranoia regarding risk to hacking has effects on consumerism and the purchases made: with innovation comes another point of attack available to the hacker. Technology has come to a point where the consumer must weigh the product’s benefits and the potential of jeopardizing one’s security. This past December, the wireless camera of a baby monitor in a Houston home was hacked, with the hacker claiming that they were going to kidnap the baby and that they were in the baby’s room (Wang). The mother claimed that “something that’s supposed to make you feel better [. . .] makes you feel the opposite” and followed up by saying she felt “invaded and uncomfortable” (Wang). Fear like this is perpetually instilled in the public, constantly reminding through the media about an individual’s susceptibility to cyber-attacks and privacy intrusions from hackers. A look through any classroom will show the extent to which individuals are well aware of these possibilities, with stickers patched on top of laptop cameras for fear of being watched.
Technology must be designed with “privacy at the core, rather than as an afterthought”, like the belief of Ann Cavoukian who is the former privacy commissioner of Ontario (Selvarajah). With new innovations and their eventual integration into society, the public may be better off considering the views of the privacy activists, like those who stood against Amazon. Although some may not agree with what they have to offer, it is crucial to know which rights and
freedoms are being compromised in this technological evolution.
“Police Use of Amazon Face-Recognition Technology Alarms Privacy Advocates | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 22 May 2018, www.cbc.ca/news/technology/rekognition-amazon-privacy-fears-1.4673478. Accessed 14 Jan. 2019.
Pringle, Ramona. “Facial Recognition Is Everywhere - Here's Why That's Concerning | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 18 Sept. 2018, www.cbc.ca/news/technology/facial-recognition-technology-concerns-1.4826931. Accessed 14 Jan. 2019.
Selvarajah, Manjula. “How Activists Are Fighting Back against Facial Recognition | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 12 July 2018, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/fighting-back-against-facial-recognition-1.4744458. Accessed 14 Jan. 2019.
Wang, Amy B. “'I'm in Your Baby's Room': A Hacker Took over a Baby Monitor and Broadcast Threats, Parents Say.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 20 Dec. 2018, www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2018/12/20/nest-cam-baby-monitor-hacked-kidnap-threat-came-device-parents-say/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.0603dde2f5c1. Accessed 14 Jan. 2019.