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  • How many of you have ever heard someone say

  • privacy is dead?

  • Raise your hand.

  • How many of you have heard someone say

  • they don't care about their privacy because they don't have anything to hide?

  • Go on.

  • (Laughter)

  • Now, how many of you use any kind of encryption software?

  • Raise your hand.

  • Or a password to protect an online account?

  • Or curtains or blinds on your windows at home?

  • (Laughter)

  • OK, so that's everyone, I think.

  • (Laughter)

  • So why do you do these things?

  • My guess is,

  • it's because you care about your privacy.

  • The idea that privacy is dead is a myth.

  • The idea that people don't care about their privacy

  • because "they have nothing to hide"

  • or they've done nothing wrong

  • is also a myth.

  • I'm guessing that you would not want to publicly share on the internet,

  • for the world to see,

  • all of your medical records.

  • Or your search histories from your phone or your computer.

  • And I bet

  • that if the government wanted to put a chip in your brain

  • to transmit every one of your thoughts to a centralized government computer,

  • you would balk at that.

  • (Laughter)

  • That's because you care about your privacy,

  • like every human being.

  • So, our world has changed fast.

  • And today, there is understandably a lot of confusion

  • about what privacy is and why it matters.

  • Privacy is not secrecy.

  • It's control.

  • I share information with my doctor about my body and my health,

  • expecting that she is not going to turn around

  • and share that information with my parents,

  • or my boss or my kids.

  • That information is private, not secret.

  • I'm in control over how that information is shared.

  • You've probably heard people say that there's a fundamental tension

  • between privacy on the one hand

  • and safety on the other.

  • But the technologies that advance our privacy

  • also advance our safety.

  • Think about fences, door locks,

  • curtains on our windows, passwords,

  • encryption software.

  • All of these technologies

  • simultaneously protect our privacy and our safety.

  • Dragnet surveillance, on the other hand, protects neither.

  • In recent years,

  • the federal government tasked a group of experts

  • called The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board

  • with examining post-9/11 government surveillance programs,

  • dragnet surveillance programs.

  • Those experts could not find a single example

  • of that dragnet surveillance advancing any safety --

  • didn't identify or stop a single terrorist attack.

  • You know what that information was useful for, though?

  • Helping NSA employees spy on their romantic interests.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Audience: Wow.)

  • Another example is closer to home.

  • So millions of people across the United States and the world

  • are adopting so-called "smart home" devices,

  • like internet-connected surveillance cameras.

  • But we know that any technology connected to the internet

  • can be hacked.

  • And so if a hacker

  • gets into your internet-connected surveillance camera at home,

  • they can watch you and your family coming and going,

  • finding just the right time to strike.

  • You know what can't be hacked remotely?

  • Curtains.

  • (Laughter)

  • Fences.

  • Door locks.

  • (Laughter)

  • Privacy is not the enemy of safety.

  • It is its guarantor.

  • Nonetheless, we daily face a propaganda onslaught

  • telling us that we have to give up some privacy in exchange for safety

  • through surveillance programs.

  • Face surveillance is the most dangerous of these technologies.

  • There are two primary ways today governments use technologies like this.

  • One is face recognition.

  • That's to identify someone in an image.

  • The second is face surveillance,

  • which can be used in concert

  • with surveillance-camera networks and databases

  • to create records of all people's public movements,

  • habits and associations,

  • effectively creating a digital panopticon.

  • This is a panopticon.

  • It's a prison designed to allow a few guards in the center

  • to monitor everything happening in the cells around the perimeter.

  • The people in those prison cells can't see inside the guard tower,

  • but the guards can see into every inch of those cells.

  • The idea here

  • is that if the people in those prison cells

  • know they're being watched all the time,

  • or could be,

  • they'll behave accordingly.

  • Similarly, face surveillance enables a centralized authority --

  • in this case, the state --

  • to monitor the totality of human movement and association

  • in public space.

  • And here's what it looks like

  • in real life.

  • In this case, it's not a guard in a tower,

  • but rather a police analyst in a spy center.

  • The prison expands beyond its walls,

  • encompassing everyone,

  • everywhere, all the time.

  • In a free society,

  • this should terrify us all.

  • For decades now, we've watched cop shows

  • that push a narrative that says

  • technologies like face surveillance ultimately serve the public good.

  • But real life is not a cop drama.

  • The bad guy didn't always do it,

  • the cops definitely aren't always the good guys

  • and the technology doesn't always work.

  • Take the case of Steve Talley,

  • a financial analyst from Colorado.

  • In 2015, Talley was arrested, and he was charged with bank robbery

  • on the basis of an error in a facial recognition system.

  • Talley fought that case

  • and he eventually was cleared of those charges,

  • but while he was being persecuted by the state,

  • he lost his house, his job and his kids.

  • Steve Talley's case is an example

  • of what can happen when the technology fails.

  • But face surveillance is just as dangerous when it works as advertized.

  • Just consider how trivial it would be

  • for a government agency to put a surveillance camera

  • outside a building where people meet for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

  • They could connect that camera

  • to a face-surveillance algorithm and a database,

  • press a button and sit back and collect

  • a record of every person receiving treatment for alcoholism.

  • It would be just as easy for a government agency

  • to use this technology to automatically identify

  • every person who attended the Women's March

  • or a Black Lives Matter protest.

  • Even the technology industry is aware of the gravity of this problem.

  • Microsoft's president Brad Smith has called on Congress to intervene.

  • Google, for its part,

  • has publicly declined to ship a face surveillance product,

  • in part because of these grave human and civil rights concerns.

  • And that's a good thing.

  • Because ultimately,

  • protecting our open society is much more important

  • than corporate profit.

  • The ACLU's nationwide campaign

  • to get the government to pump the brakes

  • on the adoption of this dangerous technology

  • has prompted reasonable questions from thoughtful people.

  • What makes this technology in particular so dangerous?

  • Why can't we just regulate it?

  • In short, why the alarm?

  • Face surveillance is uniquely dangerous for two related reasons.

  • One is the nature of the technology itself.

  • And the second is that our system

  • fundamentally lacks the oversight and accountability mechanisms

  • that would be necessary

  • to ensure it would not be abused in the government's hands.

  • First, face surveillance enables a totalizing form of surveillance

  • never before possible.

  • Every single person's every visit to a friend's house,

  • a government office,

  • a house of worship,

  • a Planned Parenthood,

  • a cannabis shop,

  • a strip club;

  • every single person's public movements, habits and associations

  • documented and catalogued,

  • not on one day, but on every day,

  • merely with the push of a button.

  • This kind of totalizing mass surveillance

  • fundamentally threatens what it means to live in a free society.

  • Our freedom of speech, freedom of association,

  • freedom of religion,

  • freedom of the press,

  • our privacy,

  • our right to be left alone.

  • You may be thinking,

  • "OK, come on, but there are tons of ways the government can spy on us."

  • And yes, it's true,

  • the government can track us through our cell phones,

  • but if I want to go to get an abortion,

  • or attend a political meeting,

  • or even just call in sick and play hooky and go to the beach ...

  • (Laughter)

  • I can leave my phone at home.

  • I cannot leave my face at home.

  • And that brings me to my second primary concern:

  • How we might meaningfully regulate this technology.

  • Today, if the government wants to know where I was last week,

  • they can't just hop into a time machine and go back in time and follow me.

  • And they also, the local police right now,

  • don't maintain any centralized system of tracking,

  • where they're cataloging every person's public movements all the time,

  • just in case that information some day becomes useful.

  • Today, if the government wants to know where I was last week,

  • or last month or last year,

  • they have to go to a judge, get a warrant

  • and then serve that warrant on my phone company,

  • which by the way, has a financial interest in protecting my privacy.

  • With face surveillance,

  • no such limitations exist.

  • This is technology that is 100 percent controlled by the government itself.

  • So how would a warrant requirement work in this context?

  • Is the government going to go to a judge

  • and get a warrant,

  • and then serve the warrant on themselves?

  • That would be like me giving you my diary,

  • and saying, "Here, you can hold on to this forever,

  • but you can't read it until I say it's OK."

  • So what can we do?

  • The only answer to the threat

  • posed by the government's use of face surveillance

  • is to deny the government the capacity to violate the public's trust,

  • by denying the government the ability

  • to build these in-house face-surveillance networks.

  • And that's exactly what we're doing.

  • The ACLU is part of a nationwide campaign

  • to pump the brakes on the government's use of this dangerous technology.

  • We've already been successful,

  • from San Francisco to Somerville, Massachusetts,

  • we have passed municipal bans

  • on the government's use of this technology.

  • And plenty of other communities here in Massachusetts

  • and across the country

  • are debating similar measures.

  • Some people have told me that this movement is bound to fail.

  • That ultimately,

  • merely because the technology exists,

  • it will be deployed in every context

  • by every government everywhere.

  • Privacy is dead, right?

  • So the narrative goes.

  • Well, I refuse to accept that narrative.

  • And you should, too.

  • We can't allow Jeff Bezos or the FBI

  • to determine the boundaries of our freedoms in the 21st century.

  • If we live in a democracy,