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There’s this new thing called “BioBouncer”, a facial recognition system for bars.  The whole idea behind it is bars can start to maintain a database of troublemakers, which can be shared with other bars.

Well, this is all rather interesting, isn’t it?  It’s one thing to have a CCTV inside of a bar.  It’s another to start maintaining digital data that is shared with other businesses on their own customers.

In a Wired article, EFF’s Lee Tien makes one point:

Lee Tien, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said people may find BioBouncer insulting or invasive. Facial recognition software is notoriously inaccurate, he said, and he is concerned that data-sharing could be used to blackball innocent partiers.

“Think about it: Someone doesn’t like you, your photo gets in there, you walk in someplace and they’re telling you, ‘You’re a troublemaker, you got bounced from that other bar.'”

Bruce Schneier blogs about the subject and has this to say, more related to the creeping aspect of these types of applications:

Anyone want to guess how long that “automatically flushed at the end of each night” will last? This data has enormous value. Insurance companies will want to know if someone was in a bar before a car accident. Employers will want to know if their employees were drinking before work — think airplane pilots. Private investigators will want to know who walked into a bar with whom. The police will want to know all sorts of things. Lots of people will want this data — and they’ll all be willing to pay for it.

And the data will be owned by the bars that collect it. They can choose to erase it, or they can choose to sell it to data aggregators like Acxiom.

It’s rarely the initial application that’s the problem. It’s the follow-on applications. It’s the function creep. Before you know it, everyone will know that they are identified the moment they walk into a commercial building. We will all lose privacy, and liberty, and freedom as a result.

The company is requiring bars that use the service to have a conspicuous sign which includes the following

  • Presence of BioBouncer
  • Purpose of BioBouncer
  • Patron Consent Agreement
  • Image Collection & Storage Procedures
  • Instructions for Protest
  • Location of Further Information:

Wired article here via Bruce Schneier.

Needless to say, I’m sure you can imagine my feelings about this thing.  I don’t like it one bit.  The signs may go up, people will notice for a while and then forget it’s there.  And you’ve just lost one more part of your freedom.

Alex Eckelberry

(From BioBouncer’s website)