Technology Watch – Emotion Detection Edition
DTPR – Digital Transparency in the Public Realm
Since the ’90s, I have been drawing attention to the impact of the surveillance economy, specifically the intersection of public and private data. It is time to revisit why this is important and why comprehensive privacy protection is necessary.
Where Are We Now?
Our current position as it relates to our lives in public: we are losing the right to our own thoughts, as we see the consequences of unchecked technology deployment for three decades.
Compounded by impotent or even non-existent legislation and regulation that follows decades later, we have arrived at a place where business and governments can use cameras to interpret our emotions and use them against us. This is your right to negotiate, gone.
A shining urban example is Hudson Yards, the launch of a new surveillance city. “We can say how many people looked at this ad, for how long. Did they seem interested, bored, were they smiling?”. This type of software is being rolled out in all areas of our lives. At retail, at work, in transit, at home. Not just on city streets. It is legion.
A Cautionary Fable
Allow me a small digression on how we got to now. There is an old Tower of Babel fable – a tale of language and how there were places that existed just yards from each other that did not share common language, or even syllables.
The result of a massive incantation put forth from the top to protect us from a singular attack. One voice that could take us all out at once. Think an even larger incantation of an evil nature, (I know this is starting to sound like an allegory). A specific incantation put into place. Keeping language separate as method to protect us.
Fast forward to now with internet and technology in place where no language barriers exist anymore, one network, any language, no rules of engagement.
The Need for Vocabulary and Context
Most noteworthy, at almost each step we failed to implement proper vocabulary, context, ethics, around what was taking place en mass.
In the early 90’s when logging on to The Well you were greeted with this line at the first text prompt:: ‘you own your own words’ offering clarity by entering their digital house you did not lose your rights.
Now our actions are someone else’s rights. Even simple actions of walking down the street.
One more piece here, humans, man’s innate nature to trust, especially as we age. As a result we are ripe receptors for those who want to move men to action. (See the 2016 election).
List: Things that have been weaponized
Cable TV News
For example, think about how many networks and things we use every day that we don’t have rights on. How many of those have been weaponized against us.
Appending Digital and IRL
We could break down the fails in each area weaponized, how it happened in post-op review. Remember self regulation and advertising? (Another longer post sometime on this and useless burden of big-data.)
If you look at this as part of the giant click bait advertising fail that has been going on for the last two decades. The fix for these fail’s mandates more data collection. Hence the new need to append your online identity with your offline behavior for even deeper targeting.
A terrible solution to a problem we never deserved. Does anyone really think the promise of providing more personal identifiable information for increased relevant advertising worked? Even if executed, effective?
The Solution is More Data
This pattern of massive failure followed with solutions that encroach on the public rights is everywhere. Take for example NYC congestion pricing. Another example of a nightmare solution due to a problem that could have many other solves, a result of gross mismanagement in the first place.
Due to of failures in infrastructure and basic traffic flow we now need a revenue fix. In this case surveillance economics becomes the solution. A mechanism to put in place location based tracking license readers.
Already in place are facial recognition towers that now stand at most gateways into NYC. Does anyone remember the public comment period for this?..get in touch.
To What End?
One of the ways I like to look at online offline behavior is this quote from one of the founders of Twitter @ev on data driven content – “whenever there is a car crash, everyone looks. That doesn’t mean we want more car crashes”. Swarm behaviors in the online world do not translate offline and vise versa, and shouldn’t.
We are actively trying to pair the two things to what end, what exactly is the end game here? Total situational awareness for commerce or security. Neither Optimal Key Result will be met, the cost will be liberty and lots of wasted dollars.
Your Thoughts In Public – Personal Event Data in Public Spaces
Back to the weaponization of the camera , and rights to privacy to your own thoughts in public. (Can not believe I had to type that sentence.)
The weaponized camera is a mechanism to trans-code your public, private and secret selves in one place. That place, is ‘not yours’ as they say from the auction block. Cameras take life as game and moves it to – life’s events as profit.
Understanding current software capability-set often non-existent or misunderstood. Context is almost always missing. Software exists that enable cameras to see your emotions. Machine learning software infer thoughts, illness (mental, physical), predisposed to do X.
This data off the events of our lives, event data that we create, data that allows us to exist independently, to negotiate, to have a private self, to be, to be singular is being taken without our permission.
Data-assault accurately describes the violations being deployed. They may sound digital but the lines blur with physical fast.
Personally identifiable event data being eviscerated includes at any age as long as you have a device. Location history, facial Identification and recognition, bio-metric data etc.
The arguments against this technology often fall to false positives. False positives are a technology solve, not a blocker. We need counter act this through ethics and human rights lenses, not a product imperfection view.
Personal Event Data in Public Spaces, Your Thoughts In Public – Action Plan
Why are not more people speaking up? It’s akimbo to a board not speaking up to a CEO. Legislative bodies that sit quiet in troubling times.
• Hold up a mirror
— Playback each day key political, and commercial figures with emotion recognition overlays.
— Flip the video on any camera that is watching by pushing to screen the machine view of the information. Display event data generated / being stolen. Think kiosks that display what the machine/camera sees in place of the advertisements.
• Take back your block and data. Fall 2019
— A day of civic action at the block level. Massive city wide education and activism with existing .orgs addressing this issue.
• Legal plan. Does the Fourth Amendment protect such information from unlawful search and seizure, or is this data merely a part of a third party’s business records?
1- File injections to stop and cease Sidewalk labs link NYC kiosks based on Carpenter v. US.
2- Put in place privacy protection laws and candidates that support data civil rights and stop the practice full stop. We do not need governors on data collection but protection from collection or using it period.
This is not the smart city I was looking for.
Looking for other rights minded tech, design and legal focused teams, organizations and individuals.
ed note: this is first daft – revisions and updates to follow.