WATCH: John Oliver Faces Off with Facial Recognition

All-star comedian/mega reverend John Oliver tackled the topic of facial recognition on the latest episode of Last Week Tonight. He discussed how the growing technology is being unethically used by law enforcement and private companies and the dangers behind it.

(Spoiler Alert!)

Oliver focused on how law enforcement has pulled photos of millions of Americans using facial recognition, with roughly 1 in 2 people being searched this way. More recently, it has been used to identify Black Lives Matter protestors for unwarranted arrests.

He also examined how multiple countries have implemented facial recognition. Even China is using an advanced AI surveillance network that can trace someone’s activity back a week. If that wasn’t bad enough, the developers literally named their system, “Skynet,” which Oliver shows how “weirdly oblivious” they are to how sinister their creation is.

Oliver showed just how inefficient this technology truly is, as Amazon’s recognition system more accurately identified male and white faces above all else. Police even had to use a photo of Woody Harrelson to identify a look-alike beer thief. Oliver emphasized the technology’s flaws by mentioning how Sri Lankan authorities misidentified a Brown University student as a suspected terrorist bomber.

He then argued that even if this technology is perfected, how governments and companies use it can be concerning. The tech company Clearview.ai and its founder, Hoan Ton-That, have gathered billions of images online, even those you aren’t aware of, going against the Terms of Service of social med to scrape untagged or private photos. While Clearview has received cease-and-desist orders from multiple social media sites, Oliver claims they nonsensically defended their right to harvest data with the First Amendment.

Oliver noted that Clearview has been used by not just hundreds of law enforcement agencies, but also corporations like Kohls, Walmart, and Macy’s. The service was even pitched to White Supremacist Congressional Candidate Paul Nehlen so he can use “unconventional databases” for “extreme opposition research.”

Oliver effectively displayed the horrifying capabilities of facial recognition and how it has been used on the public without regulation. Though he did note that facial recognition has either been banned or restricted by some states, Oliver still argued that “we also need a comprehensive nationwide policy, and we need it right now!”

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