Yesterday, dishonest initiative pitchman turned Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Eyman held the latest in a series of pop up events intended to generate media coverage for his candidacy, this time in the City of SeaTac.
However, amazingly, rather than serving up another plate full of dishonest anti-tax propaganda, Eyman tackled the topic of facial recognition. In a subsequent email to his fans, he circulated a copy of his speech on the subject which lays out his views in detail. Here’s the first few paragraphs from his remarks:
This technology has been much-hyped by the press and tech companies. Governments and the security contractors that profit from government and fund the campaigns of entrenched politicians are salivating at the chance to create a trillion-dollar industry based on the uniqueness of your face.
We have been facing ominous prospects of a world resembling the movie Minority Report or reminiscent of the terrifying Social Credit scheme in China. Police departments all over the country have been testing or using facial recognition in body cameras.
Most of America’s major airports, including SeaTac International, are slated to widely use the technology by next year. But starting last year, several cities across the country banned it altogether, including San Francisco, Boston, Oakland and others. Efforts are ongoing in Portland and even the entire state of California to ban it too.
More recently, we have seen top developers of facial recognition tech — IBM, Amazon and lastly Microsoft — back off their plans to flood police departments around the U.S. with this technology. Also, the European Union and even members of the U.S. Congress introduced proposals to ban facial recognition from being used by government.
I’ve been reading Eyman emails for nearly twenty years and it’s refreshing to finally get one that addresses a topic other than the funding of our state’s essential public services, which Eyman is bizarrely obsessed with destroying.
My team and I rarely agree with Tim Eyman about anything, but we’re glad to see Tim take a position that mirrors one of our own for a change.
At NPI, we are both strong advocates for privacy as well as cybersecurity enthusiasts, and have been since NPI’s inception in 2003. We support net neutrality, copyleft, the right to repair, and unfettered access to strong encryption. And we oppose schemes to allow internet voting and online signature gathering. We’re also totally opposed to the use of facial recognition technology by governments and the private sector on both privacy and security grounds.
We’re very glad to hear that Tim Eyman agrees that the use of facial recognition technology is a bad idea. But, having read Tim’s speech in full, I’m left wondering why Tim has also taken the view that mask-wearing is akin to tyranny given that masks present a challenge to facial recognition technology.
“Jay Inslee just jumped the shark by mandating everyone always wear masks,” Eyman fumed in a June 24th email, assuring his fan club that when he’s governor (which is never going to happen), no one will be required to wear masks.
Of course, Governor Inslee’s directive doesn’t require that people wear masks all the time, only while out in public. And the impetus for the directive, ironically, is the desire of people like Tim Eyman and his fan club to congregate in public rather than staying at home and practicing physical distancing.
The science is clear: mask wearing is crucial to reducing the spread of COVID-19 when people are in close physical proximity to each other. That’s why everyone should be wearing a mask when they’re out in public. Inslee’s directive should not have been necessary. But it was necessary because people like Tim Eyman and Donald Trump have been setting a bad example by refusing to wear masks.
If Trump had directed his followers to wear masks for their own protection several weeks ago, they would have obediently done so without question, and we wouldn’t have heard any of this nonsense about tyranny.
Instead, right wing Republicans all over this country, taking their cues from Trump, have adopted the idiotic position that putting a piece of cloth on one’s face to protect oneself from an extremely infectious virus is a bad thing.
Hilariously, Trump is now trying to have it both ways.
Speaking to Fox Business Network on Wednesday, Mr Trump said: “I’m all for masks.”
When asked whether he would wear one, the president said: “If I were in a tight situation with people I would, absolutely.”
He added that people have seen him wearing one before.
Mr. Trump said he would have “no problem” with wearing a mask publicly and that he “sort of liked” how he looked with one on, likening himself to the Lone Ranger, a fictional masked hero who with his Native American friend, Tonto, fought outlaws in the American Old West.
(Of course, the kind of mask worn by the Lone Ranger wouldn’t offer any protection against SARS-CoV‑2, but Trump’s ignorance is to be expected.)
Before the novel coronavirus pandemic, walking around while wearing a face mask could have attracted unwanted attention.
But now, due to the circumstances we’re in, you can protect both your health and your privacy by wearing a mask, and not turn any heads.
Face masks have already been shown to be effective at preventing some facial recognition systems from working properly, including the systems that Google and Apple have developed for unlocking Android devices and iPhones.
While technology companies are racing to adapt their facial recognition tech to account for widespread mask wearing, the use of sunglasses in conjunction with a mask will likely remain an effective way to frustrate facial recognition technology.
Any true libertarian interested in resisting mass surveillance should be overjoyed that it’s now socially acceptable to wear a mask in public and move about our built environment more anonymously, including while shopping.
Masks can be a great form of individual expression, as well, another concept that libertarians and people with a libertarian streak often emphasize in their politics.
So, Tim… if you ever get around to reading this post, I hope you’ll take what I’ve said to heart. Wear a face mask when in public.
Don’t do it because our governor directed you to. Do it because you care about yourself and the well-being of the people around you, like your kids. And do it because you value your privacy and want to resist mass surveillance.
Masks will not help hide who you are.
Ever heard of a periocular recognition system? This form of identification uses only the eyes and eyebrows to identify a person.
Actually, they don’t even need to use any facial features to recognize you.
There’s already software that can identify you by your gait (how you walk) or silhouette.
Incorrect: Masks can and do help protect a person’s anonymity; this is precisely why protesters wear them at protests.
Some masks are designed to obscure almost all of a person’s face while others are designed to cover the nose and mouth. The latter kind, used in conjunction with a decent pair of sunglasses, can frustrate facial recognition systems, as I wrote above. (Apparently, you missed that part.)
There isn’t a surefire way to prevent oneself from ever being recognized while out in public and my post does not argue there is.