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ALEXANDER FLEISS: Will We Lose Our Rights To The Surveillance State?

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Alexander Fleiss Contributor
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The intelligence community has crossed the line and gone too far. From Obama’s sanctioning surveillance of the Trump campaign to the NSA listening to whatever phone call they please, we are living in a dystopian state where our civil liberties are trampled upon. Now with the advent of facial recognition, privacy is likely to disappear for U.S. citizens.

Will we lose our rights?

Today we find ourselves at a “surveillance crossroads.” How will we choose to move forward as a society given the ability of Machine Learning and facial recognition to capture our every move? We are the home of the free and the brave. We are not under a dictatorship or rogue regime. We are witnessing presidents become subject to searches over questionable concerns. We see the FBI acting as though they are above all.

The White House’s Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights states:

“You and your communities should be free from unchecked surveillance; surveillance technologies should be subject to heightened oversight that includes at least pre-deployment assessment of their potential harms and scope limits to protect privacy and civil liberties.”

But what oversight are they talking about? How do they know who has what cameras? And what about the NSA, which can hack into endless camera networks? Who will check them? The blueprint is pure PR, and meaningless in reality. 

As spelled out by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; “The revelations of Edward Snowden, and more recently the Cambridge Analytica case (Cadwalladr & Graham-Harrison 2018) have demonstrated that worries about negative consequences are real. The technical capabilities to collect, store and search large quantities of data concerning telephone conversations, internet searches and electronic payment are now in place and are routinely used by government agencies and corporate actors alike. The rise of China and the large scale of use and spread of advanced digital technologies for surveillance and control have only added to the concern of many.”

This collection of phone data enabled the government to closely track your location based on the usage of any mobile device. No civil liberties in sight! (RELATED: JARED WHITLEY: Would George Washington Be Able To Recognize America Today?)

Cell towers record when they connect to each phone’s unique IMEI identifier, and the willingness to harvest this data for tracking purposes is indicative of the threat that existed with technology from the last decade, a threat that exists with an even greater severity now.

We have also seen recently the FBI’s penchant for unchecked surveillance. Their appetite for using their power as a weapon for political means has become apparent to the average American. Clearly, the desire to survey our citizens has grown tremendously to an out-of-hand state.

And now with the advent of Machine Learning technology that can track an individual’s face wherever he or she goes we wonder — have we lost our right to privacy entirely?

One facial recognition firm Onfido worked with the local government to use driver’s licenses to help track faces. Will Microsoft share actions over Word it deems “dangerous”? Big Tech already freely hands over data to the Chinese government. They are likely doing the same in the U.S. Again, what has happened to our civil liberties?

Will Big Tech hold the government’s hand and run across this threshold toward George Orwell’s nightmare?

Fortunately, Republicans have created a committee to look at the government being weaponized against the people. We may be at a crossroads but there needs to be more done to build confidence in surveillance, especially as we add AI to the equation.

Big Tech and the U.S. government have crossed the line of freedom and privacy. Will the rights and freedoms of the U.S. citizen become resurrected again, or have the days of American civil liberties vanished forever? One thing’s for sure: This is not the America our Founding Fathers envisioned.

Alexander Fleiss is the CEO of think tank Rebellion Research and has taught Artificial Intelligence at Cornell, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, NYU, Amherst College, MIT and has 18 academic research publications.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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