As technology continues to evolve, privacy has become a constant juggling act. This fine line is particularly seen in today’s debate on facial recognition. Some cities are embracing it — often seeing considerable value in the realm of public safety — while others are banning its usage with concerns in regards to its accuracy and the potential for privacy violations.
Personally, having watched way too much true crime-related fare, I can definitely see how facial recognition would be invaluable to law enforcement, solving many crimes when accompanied by solid police work. On the other hand, I question where such information will be stored and for how long. Cities, after all, don’t always have the most stellar track records when it comes to digital security.
In a June 26, 2019, report, the BBC found Florida municipalities had paid $1.1 million over ransomware. These cities are not alone. Baltimore, Md., found its computer networks paralyzed by ransomware this spring while further west Akron, Ohio’s, helpline was taken out by hackers during a major snowstorm.
In its Sept. 28 article, “Washington idle as ransomware ravages cities big and small,” Politico reported that in 2018, “The FBI received nearly 1,500 ransomware reports last year from all sectors, with an estimated damage total of $3.6 million.” The magazine added, “The cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, which has kept track of publicly reported ransomware attacks, tracked 80 on municipalities this year, compared with 53 in 2018, though both figures are likely to be underreported. And when it comes to paying the ransom to hackers, the cyber firm Coveware found that governments on average pay 10 times more than businesses.”
Digital security should probably be put before the implementation of facial recognition, but that is not to say the latter technology shouldn’t be looked into. When that time that comes around — if it’s not banned on the federal level — some of the concerns associated with facial recognition technology may have been worked out as it improves, likely within a short time span.
While technology evolves quickly, that doesn’t mean cities should sit on the sidelines. In this issue focused on technology, we are highlighting two cities — Montgomery, Ala., and Salt Lake City, Utah — which have striven to integrate new technologies not only to streamline their operations but also to improve their citizens’ quality of life.
Other cities featured in this issue are rolling out apps to connect with residents, empowering them to report problems they see — like potholes — or simply pay their bills. Finally, we will also be looking at how technology can be used to manage air pollution.
We hope as always you find this issue to be educational. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!