Jul 9, 2019

Group seeks ban on government use of facial recognition

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Digital rights group Fight For the Future is calling on Congress to ban government use of facial recognition. The announcement, to be made Tuesday, comes in the wake of weekend reports that federal authorities used facial recognition on millions of driver's license photos.

Our thought bubble: An all-out ban is unlikely, but the position makes for a strong opening salvo in the looming fight over regulating facial-recognition tech.

Fight For the Future says facial recognition is unlike any other form of surveillance because of its ability to monitor an entire population.

What they're saying: “Imagine if we could go back in time and prevent governments around the world from ever building nuclear or biological weapons. That’s the moment in history we’re in right now with facial recognition,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future. “This surveillance technology poses such a profound threat to the future of human society and basic liberty that its dangers far outweigh any potential benefits. We don’t need to regulate it, we need to ban it entirely.” 

Others, including Microsoft and Amazon, have called on the federal government to regulate, but not necessarily ban, use of the technology.

The bottom line: The status quo — with few, if any, guard rails and little transparency or accountability — isn't protecting anyone. But activists say industry-backed legislation won't go far enough, and the question should really be whether we want the technology used at all.

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Kids at the center of facial recognition

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Facial recognition is going everywhere far faster than expected — including creeping into private and public spaces as a means to keep tabs on children.

Why it matters: The people with the power to rein in this tech are the same ones who will most enjoy its benefits — while those who face its adverse effects, especially people of color and low-income communities, will be largely powerless to make anything change.

Go deeperArrowAug 2, 2019

Google and Samsung preview their next slate of iPhone competitors

Screenshot via YouTube

Both Google and Samsung shared details Monday about their next phones ahead of their official announcements, bringing the rest of the fall hardware lineup that will compete with the new iPhones into focus.

Our thought bubble: These companies have experienced enough leaks to know their smartphone secrets won't keep. Announcing key features builds excitement and lets the companies help influence the narrative.

Go deeperArrowJul 30, 2019

Inside the next generation of nuclear energy

A top executive of NuScale, the first company to work with federal regulators on a new generation of nuclear power, recently talked with Axios about the technology's future.

Driving the news: Oregon-based NuScale is expecting a key technical review to be complete by year’s end and final design approval from the government by the second half of next year. If all goes as planned, it aims to be operating by 2026 a new kind of reactor that’s far smaller than today’s technology.

Go deeperArrowJul 17, 2019