Recently I went to a colleague’s house and rung the video doorbell. From behind the door came a computer generated voice saying something along the lines of “John Tyler is at the front door”. My colleague answered and explained that her mobile phone was linked to the doorbell and that the phone’s digital voice assistant had recognised me and spoken the message.
As I left, I felt slightly unnerved. Having put myself forward for elected office I can hardly complain at being recognised but the fact that it was done digitally, without my knowing, is not something that sits easily with me.
The doorbell in question stores facial images it captures and the user can add the names of recognised people for future use. I can certainly live with that on an individual basis but what if such technology is used on a wider scale?
Facial recognition CCTV has been available to the police for at least a decade. Whether the benefits outweigh the potential loss of privacy is open to debate but at least in these circumstances there is some form of control. If enough people object then our elected representatives can instruct the relevant authorities to wipe their databases, through legislation if necessary.
But what if facial images are stored in the databases of global tech giants, based outside our country? What control do we have then? My face is now on one of these companies databases due to my colleagues doorbell and I have no personal control over what they do with it.
What if such companies computers automatically read this article and link it to my digital image?
“Don’t be daft”, you might say, “They would never do that.” To which I would reply, “How can you be so sure?”
Cllr John Tyler
Upminster & Cranham Residents’ Association