Two new bills are being considered by a parliamentary committee. If adopted, they would allow the creation of a massive national database of people’s facial identification. The plan would include the collection of photos from passports, drivers’ licences and other identity documents that have a facial image.
The government claims that the intention of the laws is to combat identity fraud, but critics say that such a database could actually be counter-productive. A cyber-attack earlier this year resulted in tens of thousands of photos collected by the United States Customs and Border Patrol being stolen with the potential for them to be fraudulently used.
The other argument put forward by those who support the database is that it’s needed to fight crime. But despite the fact that governments already have extensive access to surveillance and data collection, this has not helped authorities around the world to stop crimes like terror attacks or mass shootings.
There are major concerns that a database of this nature would breach people’s basic right to privacy. It would give government agencies a powerful tool that could be easily converted into a mass surveillance scheme in the future. Under the proposal, private businesses could also be given access to the database.
Similar schemes are already being used by the Chinese government to crack down on political dissidents, and police forces in the United States have been using facial recognition software to identify and arrest individuals at protests.
Mass surveillance is increasingly becoming a feature of capitalism. This is useful to a rich minority who rules over the majority. It is used for both social control and to advance profit interests.
Socialists campaign against anti-democratic laws, and laws that breach people’s privacy. We see this as part of the fight for a different way of running society. In a democratic socialist society, the wealth created would be shared more equally. By removing the profit motive, there would be no need for mass surveillance and repression.
By Triet Tran