The U.S. military is taking facial-recognition software to a new level.
The next generation of the technology will be portable and able to identify individuals from distances of as much as a kilometer away, according to New Scientist.
The technology is being developed for the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the magazine reported. Work began in 2016 on the Advanced Tactical Facial Recognition at a Distance Technology, and a prototype was demonstrated in December, laying the groundwork for production, New Scientist said.
Initially created for handheld use, the technology could also be deployed via drones, the magazine said, citing SOCOM documents. The advantages are clear: The software can be employed from far away, possibly without the subject even being aware of it.
While facial-recognition is attracting billions in investor cash, it’s also raising privacy concerns and calls for it to be banned. It’s also been criticized as unreliable, particularly when dealing with people of color. Civilian authorities have considered whether to ban it on privacy grounds. It’s already illegal in San Francisco, and the European Union is considering a five-year ban.
A call for developers in 2017 outlined a project that would use artificial intelligence algorithms and be able to automatically detect, recognize, classify and identify human and other targets. It noted that the military use of unmanned aerial systems — or drones — “is an area of increasing interest and growth.”
The solicitation, made via the government’s Small Business Innovation Research arm, also cited the “ongoing resurgence in the research, development and implementation of different types” of AI.
- Facial-recognition software recently moved into the schools: The Lockport, New York, district began using the technology a few weeks ago to monitor the grounds at eight schools, The New York Times reported.
- The U.S. government should suspend the use of facial-recognition technology, more than 40 privacy and civil rights organizations urged in a letter last month. The U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent federal agency, should recommend a blanket moratorium on the technology until further review, they said.