Retail Use of FRT is Problematic as Ever

Private retailer use of facial recognition technology has been in the news lately, with a story out of Detroit of a young Black girl being ejected from a private business due to a FRT misidentification. Lamya Robinson was kicked out of a roller skating rink after facial recognition technology that the business was using “identified” her as having been part of a fight there before. The only problem: Robinson had never actually been to that skating rink before. Her mother is quoted as saying, “To me, it’s basically racial profiling.” And she’s right: FRT is the same old racial profiling, with a 21st century, high-tech veneer of objectivity.


Tech world biases are baked into the technology itself, technology that is often trained on databases that are primarily filled with white faces. This means that FRT misidentifies Black and brown faces more often than white faces. It’s a fallacy to believe that surveillance such as this guarantees safety. It’s often a question of safety for whom? FRT misidentifications—whether public or private—can lead to dangerous contact between marginalized communities and law enforcement. There’s been multiple cases of black men being wrongfully imprisoned over false FRT identifications. That’s not actually safety, that’s mass criminalization and it harms communities.

Facial recognition technology is inaccurate and unsafe for large portions of our population including, women, LGBTQ people, and people of color. Retailers who use FRT are knowingly choosing to create environments that are not just unwelcoming but also unsafe for marginalized communities. And often times, shoppers have no idea what they’re walking into. Even worse, shoppers may have no choice—consider people who live in food deserts or other communities without many choices of where one can shop. The proliferation of FRT in retail settings will just contribute to mass criminalization of marginalized communities and our already racist policing system. We need to draw a line in the sand here and now: it’s simply not ok for retailers to use facial recognition technology. Sign the petition and shame the naughty list of retailers: here.

How the 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates stack up on the surveillance state

Today, Restore The Fourth launches its voter guide for the 2020 Democratic primaries.

Mass state surveillance is less about who’s in the Oval Office and more about senior intelligence community officials and tech company executives. Their institutional imperatives plow ahead with only limited influence from the White House either way. It’s not clear that even a President who assumed office pledging to undermine the surveillance state would still be able to do so.

However, there are still meaningful differences between the different candidates for President. We don’t make endorsements or dis-endorsements, but it’s part of our mission to educate the public about those differences, and existing sources don’t draw together adequately the necessary information for privacy-oriented voters.

This cycle, we’re analyzing candidates’ track records and statements with respect to seven factors: (a) NSA surveillance; (b) FBI surveillance of domestic dissent; (c) DHS border surveillance; (d) police accountability; (e) commercial privacy and online publisher liability; (f) encryption; and (g) attitude to national security whistleblowers.

This necessarily casts a broader net than our congressional surveillance scorecard. Votes are the clearest indication of where a candidate stands, but some candidates have never held elected office. Where appropriate, we are also including and contextualizing candidate statements and non-legislative actions. This guide focuses on the Democratic candidates; ahead of the other parties’ debates, we will aim to do the same.

A / A- : Tulsi Gabbard : Bernie Sanders : Elizabeth Warren

B+ / B / B- : Beto O’Rourke : Cory Booker : Kamala Harris

C+ / C / C- : Julian Castro : Pete Buttigieg : Andrew Yang

D / D- : Amy Klobuchar : Joe Biden

Unclassified: Tom Steyer

Continue reading How the 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates stack up on the surveillance state