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Think tank urges face-scanning of the masses

Bloody Quislings

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The famous Rand Organization, a putatively non-partisan think tank, has come out in favor of using face-scanning technology to violate the privacy of the innocent masses in search of -- you guessed it -- terrorists and pedophiles, the two most detested fringe-groups on the planet.

Following the regrettable inclinations of all modern governments, a recent Rand report reckons that the natural rights of the majority of ordinary, law-abiding citizens should be sacrificed for the sacred mission of identifying and prosecuting a mere handful of sexually perverted or homicidal lunatics.

"Biometric facial recognition can provide significant benefits to society," Rand says, and adds that "we should not let the fear of potential but inchoate threats to privacy, such as super surveillance, deter us from using facial recognition where it can produce positive benefits."

Chief among these are the detection of terrorists and pedophiles, as we said. No matter that these sick individuals comprise a mere fraction of a fraction of normal human beings. No matter that detecting them requires the most outrageous government intrusions into the natural comings and goings of millions of innocent people.

Rand's answer to serious questions of personal liberty is a few easily-skirted regulations which ought to allay all of our concerns.

"By implementing reasonable safeguards [for government use of biometric face scanning], we can harness its power to maximize its benefits while minimizing the intrusion on individual privacy," the report chirps optimistically.

Rand returns repeatedly to the controversial, and prosecutorially worthless, use of biometric face scanning at the 2001 Super Bowl.

"While facial recognition did not lead to any arrests at the Super Bowl, there is evidence that using such a system can help deter crime. In Newham, England, the crime rate fell after police installed 300 surveillance cameras and incorporated facial recognition technology. While it is possible that the criminals only shifted their efforts to other locales, crime in Newham at least was deterred."

That's rich. So it's 'possible' that local criminals moved elsewhere, is it? Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows it's certain that they did, which implies that no one will ever be safe until every dark corner of the planet is blanketed by high-tech cameras performing a sort of criminal triage on all of us.

And after all, things could be worse. "The facial recognition system used at the Super Bowl was not physically invasive or intrusive for spectators. In fact, it was much less invasive than a metal detector at a public building or an inauguration parade checkpoint. In this sense, facial recognition helped to protect the privacy of individuals, who otherwise might have to endure more individualized police attention," Rand points out.

Of course, no appeal to Fascism and Kafkaesque control would be complete without reference to the safety of innocent children. Rand does not let us down: "many parents would most likely feel safer knowing their children's elementary school had a facial recognition system to ensure that convicted child molesters were not granted access to school grounds."

It's all very popular, but immensely dangerous, thinking. Preserving personal liberty requires that we all accept a bit of chaos, a bit of hooliganism, a bit of risk. Yes, you or I might possibly get our heads bashed in by brain-dead hooligans, or get blown up by terrorist bombers, and our little lambs might get exploited by sexual sickos if we don't keep a close eye on them. But probably not.

Surely, the suffocating, risk-free environments our governments are trying so desperately to sell us to extend their powers of observation and control are far more grotesque and soul-destroying than anything a terrorist or a pedophile might ever hope to produce. ®

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