Will facial recognition be the next tech used to combat COVID-19?

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Facial recognition technology and scanning systems are being developed and introduced by some hospitals to aid COVID-19 response efforts, according to STAT.

Tampa (Fla.) General Hospital recently implemented an artificial intelligence-powered system that uses thermal-scanning face cameras to search for fevers, sweating and discoloration, according to the report. 

New York City-based Clearview AI is reportedly in talks with unnamed federal and state agencies to use its facial recognition tech to help trace COVID-19 patients and their contacts. The New York City-based company previously developed a tool that allows law enforcement to run video evidence through its system database of public images to identify matches.

Critics argue that facial recognition tech poses security and privacy concerns; more than 40 civil rights and privacy groups penned a letter May 1 to Ed Chau, a member of the California State Assembly, opposing his proposed facial recognition bill. The legislation would allow companies and public agencies to upload people's facial data, without their consent, into a recognition system if there is probable cause to believe they have been involved with criminal actions, according to the report.

"This bill threatens to further entrench inequity and divert money from vital public health resources while ushering in a nightmarish future of unprecedented biometric surveillance," the letter states. "Facial recognition is not the solution to this public health crisis."

Microsoft was the only organization to support the legislation, which was debated by a committee of the assembly focused on consumer privacy on May 5. About 50 other organizations opposed the bill, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Northern California, Southern California and San Diego and Imperial Counties.


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