paper accepted for AOIR 2021

We are very pleased to have a paper accepted for the 2021 AOIR conference in October. The paper arises from our ongoing ethnographic work about FRT and biometrics industry trade shows and is titled: “‘Ethical biometrics’ and the face of the child: the surveillance of children within facial recognition industry discourse”.

In this paper we consider recent shifts in industry discourse towards promoting the ‘ethical’ use of biometric technology. We argue that the facial recognition industry is acutely aware of critiques of facial recognition cameras and biometric technologies as enabling racialized and other forms of social harm, and that members of the industry are keen to promote a more prosocial public image of the technology.

Towards this end we find that biometric monitoring of children has gained a prominent place in the promotion of facial recognition technologies as a mode of ‘careful’ surveillance. The paper considers three key ‘use cases’ in which the face of the child takes on a prominent role as justifying and legitimating the use of facial recognition technologies:

  • the auditing of humanitarian food supply programs in the developing world;
  • the detection of so-called ‘staging’ of family units at the US border;
  • the detection of underage gambling in Australia.

We argue that the immanent ‘ethical’ framing of the child’s face in this context serves to obscure the broader political ramifications of this extension of facial recognition and biometric surveillance tools more broadly.

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