Archives April 23, 2019

Facial Recognition to board a plane

A boarding technology for travelers using JetBlue is causing controversy due to a social media thread on the airline’s use of facial recognition. Last week, traveler MacKenzie Fegan described her experience with the biometric technology in a social media post that got the attention of JetBlue’s official account. She began: “I just boarded an international @JetBlue flight. Instead of scanning my boarding pass or handing over my passport, I looked into a camera before being allowed down the jet bridge. Did facial recognition replace boarding passes, unbeknownst to me? Did I consent to this?” JetBlue was ready to offer Twitterized sympathy: “You’re able to opt out of this procedure, MacKenzie. Sorry if this made you feel uncomfortable.”

But once you start thinking about these things, your thoughts become darker. Fegan wanted to know how JetBlue knew what she looked like. JetBlue explained: “The information is provided by the United States Department of Homeland Security from existing holdings.” Fegan wondered by what right a private company suddenly had her bioemtric data. JetBlue insisted it doesn’t have access to the data. It’s “securely transmitted to the Customs and Border Protection database.” Fegan wanted to know how this could have possibly happened so quickly. Could it be that in just a few seconds her biometric data was whipped “securely” around government departments so that she would be allowed on the plane? JetBlue referred her to an article on the subject, which was a touch on the happy-PR side. Fegan was moved, but not positively, by the phrase “there is no pre-registration required.”

Google Home calls the Police, always listening

According to ABC News, officers were called to a home outside Albuquerque, New Mexico this week when a Google Home called 911 and the operator heard a confrontation in the background. Police say that Eduardo Barros was house-sitting at the residence with his girlfriend and their daughter. Barros allegedly pulled a gun on his girlfriend when they got into an argument and asked her: “Did you call the sheriffs?” Google Home apparently heard “call the sheriffs,” and proceeded to call the sheriffs. A SWAT team arrived at the home and after negotiating for hours, they were able to take Barros into custody… “The unexpected use of this new technology to contact emergency services has possibly helped save a life,” Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III said in a statement.

“It’s easy to imagine police getting tired of being called to citizen’s homes every time they watch the latest episode of Law and Order,” quips Gizmodo. But they also call the incident “a clear reminder that smart home devices are always listening.”