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futuribile / curating futures - Issue #44 - The ID.me backlash: facial recognition and citizens' options in the digital state

futuribile / curating futures
futuribile / curating futures - Issue #44 - The ID.me backlash: facial recognition and citizens' options in the digital state
By Marta Arniani • Issue #44 • View online
Aloha,
The last frontier of digital welfare dystopia is facial recognition. In an article on The Atlantic, Joey Boulamwini, founder of Algorithmic Justice League, turns the spotlight on the increasing number of services in the US demanding biometric data to be accessed. While it is well known that facial recognition does not provide for everybody equally, failing to recognise people of colour or transgender, the other “little problem” is the provider. The ID.me company serves 27 states and several federal agencies, making it the bigger player in the US.
ID.me is a dangerous black box. Boulamwini points out that ID.me white paper utilises misleading terms to avoid scrutiny concerning facial recognition. The situation escalated with the recent declarations of its CEO, who, under the push of employees, had to admit publicly that the company is not doing 1:1 face match (comparable to taking a selfie to unlock a smartphone) but 1:many facial recognition. The latter implies running somebody’s picture against a database, and how discrimination is avoided in doing so is unknown. Moreover, the company also admitted using Amazon’s (just another minor player) Rekognition facial recognition product.
The backlash was so strong that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had to step back from its plans to enforce ID.me identity verification as default for citizens to do their taxes or access other essential services. Meanwhile, ID.me calmed down tensions announcing early this week that it will add an option for users to verify identity directly with a human agent and the possibility to delete their photo. Will people be able to learn about these options and exercise their rights?
Let’s go on the other side of the Atlantic, in France, where the President is very good at fining Google while enforcing a spectacular surveillance state. Without questioning the digitalisation of public services, the programme “conseillers numérique” deployed a league of state servants attached to regional and local institutions who have the role of upskilling the population on digital matters. Cool, right? Unfortunately, most people ask for a conseiller’s help only when they face digital emergencies in using public services, such as the suspension of their unemployed rights, instead of just for the joy of learning basic computer skills or anticipating problems. As a desperate conseiller declared to Le Monde “I didn’t expect to have to play (…) the after-sales service for a forced dematerialisation that wasn’t anticipated enough, (…) To have to deal with people who are so shattered, humiliated and feel abandoned.” But hey, it’s innovation!
Aloha,
Marta Arniani

Winter House is a virtual residence by digital artist Andrés Reisinger and architect Alba de la Fuente. Reisinger has an interesting take on the financialization of the metaverse: "I envision that if we can transfer a good portion of our interest in buying material objects to the metaverse, then we’ll be able to strengthen our relationship with nature in our physical world". Fingers crossed!
Winter House is a virtual residence by digital artist Andrés Reisinger and architect Alba de la Fuente. Reisinger has an interesting take on the financialization of the metaverse: "I envision that if we can transfer a good portion of our interest in buying material objects to the metaverse, then we’ll be able to strengthen our relationship with nature in our physical world". Fingers crossed!
Meta abuse
The metaverse developed by Meta has already been robbed of its age of innocence, if it ever had one. The virtual environment Horizon Worlds, accessible with Oculus VR headset, is already under accuse since its release in December on the US and Canada markets. Criticism addresses abuse of women, already documented, and potential children abuse, which could quickly occur due to the number of kids reported wandering in the platform without parental control. As VR experiences gain users and challenge personal boundaries, violence and accountability, what can we expect for the future? More here.
The Mobile Phone Museum collection includes more than 2000 models. The charity plans to add an educational dimension to the project – visit schools and provide resources to students to help them learn more about what became a mundane body extension.
The Mobile Phone Museum collection includes more than 2000 models. The charity plans to add an educational dimension to the project – visit schools and provide resources to students to help them learn more about what became a mundane body extension.
Shots
/// #HashtagActivism. A book about how marginalized groups use Twitter to build diverse networks of dissent.
/// Black culture archives on Instagram: empowerment, surveillance & reclamation.
/// Online conferences are inclusive: a study about demographics and footprint of online events in the US found for instance that female attendance increased as much as 253%.
/// Mozilla launched an Open Source Audit Tooling (OAT) Project to fight algorithmic injustice.
/// Surge promises to secure women’s place in Web3 with education and networking.
Oh, dear!
The ultimate influencer: Jesus. A Wall Street Journal report.
The ultimate influencer: Jesus. A Wall Street Journal report.
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That’s all for this round! Share online and forward to support my work, hit reply for feedback or starting a conversation.
Aloha,
Marta
Did you enjoy this issue?
Marta Arniani

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