Computers, Privacy & the Constitution

Shaping the New Perimeter of Privacy

-- Revised By WanTingHuang - 05 May 2021

1. Smart City and Automatic Recognition Cameras

The cameras on the roads and streets have raised huge concerns. "The automatic recognition cameras benefit to build up a smart city," allegedly by governments. However, is it really the whole story of automatic recognition cameras? Why would choose those "smart" ones?

2. The God's Eye

There are facial recognition cameras in stations in many countries. Those cameras, which exist at stations, gates and street lamps, are so smart that they can recognize every face in its database in less than a second, identifying who you are, analyzing your facial movements and emotion, predicting your next-step movements. Anyone who owns those "smart" ones, will become the God that governs everyone. However, who owns those cameras, the government who set up those cameras, the company that makes them, or a third party? People may feel that only the authorized government agency can own those cameras and the data those cameras collected. But the truth is always ugly.

(1) Can a Government Capture Everyone's Biometric Data?

If a government wants to collect all people's personal data and biometric data without reason, people will highly probably refuse. But this situation happens almost everyday -- governments collect innocent people's data, without proper reason or with poor reason. Take cameras of automatic number-plate recognition systems for example. This system can be used for the detection of average speeds and help to decrease the traffic accident rate -- which alleged by the government as the purpose of setting up this system. Nevertheless, the problem of average speed cameras is not on who drives over-speed but on those who do not drive overs-peed. Through this system, the government can establish mass surveillance of vehicle movements. Once governments profess to have public interest, they can access every camera that automatically captures every number plate and even driver's face, even if innocent drivers. Although the purpose of decreasing the traffic accident rate could be done by a traditional camera, a government can take advantage of automatic recognition software in the smart camera and use its data without people's awareness, and that could help a government to govern its people, or even control its people.

(2) Can a Government Agency Share Data with Another Agency?

A facial recognition camera should only be used with proper and reasonable purpose, and the data collected by those cameras should only be used for their set-up purpose. It is undoubtfully that a government could not set up a facial recognition camera without authority by law. However, can a government agency share its data with another agency? For example, can an image captured at a driveway of an E-pass be shared with a taxation bureau? Or let me ask in another way. Can a public housing department share its data which was collected by its cameras on the corridor with the police department? More and more people concern about data sharing among governmental departments, especially when more cameras are set up and the technology advanced. And we should not allow a government agency to share its data with another department without transparency.

(3) Can a Company Shares Data?

Many governments often outsource technical projects to technology companies, as a symbol of progress, but ignore the risk behind the software made by private companies. Sometimes, a technology company transmits the data collected by its devices to its own company, beyond the consent of the owner of the devices, alleged to promote the function of its devices and improving the customer's service. In other words, it is like a worker who came to build up your house, left a key of your house privately, and often came to your house to get something to his house -- saying that is for maintaining the function of your house. If this sounds preposterous to you, so does data collected and shared with a private company.

3. Reemerge of the Privacy Protection

Nowadays, advanced technology has forced people to rethink the relationship between people and a government, and the distinction between public and private. As the cameras are set up at more and more spots, the line between the private and the public is harder to distinguish. Moreover, as data flows around and gets linked to other data, it erases the boundaries of private and public and has redefined our privacy laws. The line between public and private is no longer be the same as the first time we learn their difference decades ago. Moreover, technology changes so quickly that the legislation could not catch up on time every moment. On one hand, a government can use a traditional camera instead of an automatic recognition camera. On the other hand, if a government would like to use a smart camera, the scope of data usage and its sharing should be strictly regulated.

All in all, rather than saying technology is a bad thing, I will say that technology should not be everything. Even though a governmental agency, and enforcement department, or another department would argue that what they collect people’s personal information and biometric data is to protect the security of the nation and public interest, but still, we are and should have the right to be freemen with the right to privacy, anonymity. As technology evolves, the protection of privacy should also evolve. In addition, using technology by the government should be more regulated. And how a government takes advantage of the data they collected intentionally or unintentionally should both be reported to the public with transparency. With the advancement of technology, the protection of privacy should be promoted as well.

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r3 - 05 May 2021 - 21:01:24 - WanTingHuang
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