New York Magazine: “Facial recognition technology has some serious, persistent issues. These were clearly shown earlier this year when Amazon’s “Rekognition” mistakenly identified 28 members of Congress as criminals. The technology as a whole largely suffers both from inaccuracy and systemic bias. Regardless of who wields the technology or for what purpose, the algorithms use raw data pulled from a society hindered by racial and gender predispositions which ultimately yield similarly biased results. In essence, bad data in means biased results out. In places like China, where the national government is already primed with a proclivity for mass surveillance, facial recognition turns the the troubling into the dystopian.
Clearly, surveilling humans comes with an assortment of ethical and moral dilemmas attached. But what about surveilling animals? Until new technologies give us the ability to understand animals’ views on the panopticon, people have been almost disconcertingly audacious about training computers to recognize their faces. Humans don’t have a great track record for not harming animals, even when we know better. But for now, at least, it appears we’re using our technological prowess to keep track of ecosystems and positively manage populations.
A Bloomberg feature this week highlighted how a Norwegian company is using facial recognition to capture and store the faces of millions of Atlantic salmon to help fight disease. That fish-face database will potentially let farmers monitor salmon numbers and detect abnormalities in health, like parasitic sea lice, which could be a boon for farmers around the world. Salmon are just the latest entry in a growing cornucopia of animal faces loaded into databases. For some animals, the biometric data gathered from them is being used to aid in conservation efforts. For others, the resulting AI could help ward off poachers. While partly creepy and partly very cute, monitoring of these animals can both help protect their populations and ensure safe, traceable livestock for developing communities. Here is a list of all the (known) animals currently being surveilled with facial recognition software, and why we are watching them…”