" Last week, The New York Times reported on the federal government’s plans to collect DNA samples from people in immigration custody, including asylum seekers. This is an infringement of civil rights and privacy, and opens the door to further misuse of data in the long term. There is no reason for people in custody to consent to this collection of personal data. Nor is there any clarity on the limits on how this data may be used in the future. The DNA samples will go into the FBI’s criminal database, even though requesting asylum is not a crime and entering the country illegally is only a misdemeanor. That makes the practice not only an invasion of privacy in the present but also potentially a way to skew statistics and arguments in debates over immigration in the future.
Unprincipled data collection is not limited to refugee populations. The New York Daily News reported on Wednesday that Google has been using temporary employees, paid through a third party, to collect facial scans of dark-skinned people in an attempt to better balance its facial recognition database. According to the article, temporary workers were told “to go after people of color, conceal the fact that people’s faces were being recorded and even lie to maximize their data collections.” Target populations included homeless people and students. They were offered a five-dollar gift card (which is more than refugees and immigrant detainees get for their data) but, critically, were never informed about how the facial scans would be used, stored, or, apparently, collected.
A Google spokesperson told the Daily News that the data was being collected “to build fairness into Pixel 4’s face unlock feature” in the interests of “building an inclusive product.” Leaving aside whether contributing to the technology of a reportedly $900 phone is worthwhile for a homeless person, the collection of this data without formal consent or legal agreements leaves it open to being used for any number of other purposes, such as the policing of the homeless people who contributed it."
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