Building on San Francisco's first-of-its-kind ban on government face recognition, California this week enacted a landmark law that blocks police from using body cameras for spying on the public. The state-wide law keeps thousands of body cameras used by police officers from being transformed into roving surveillance devices that track our faces, voices, and even the unique way we walk. Importantly, the law ensures that body cameras, which were promised to communities as a tool for officer accountability, cannot be twisted into surveillance systems to be used against communities.
As Cagle points out, San Francisco was the first city in the nation to ban use of facial recognition by city agencies. Oakland followed closely behind. And all the way on the other side of the country, Somerville, Massachusetts became the second city in the US to enact a facial recognition ban.This statewide ban will hopefully lead to others around the nation. The tech multiple companies are pushing government agencies to adopt is unproven, at best. The rate of false positives in live deployments is alarming. Just as alarming is the flipside: false negatives that allow the people, who law enforcement agents are actually looking for, to slip away. Despite this, everyone from the DHS to local police departments thinks this is the next wave of acceptable surveillance -- one that allows government agencies to, in essence, demand ID from everyone who passes by their cameras.The resistance to facial recognition's seemingly-unchecked expansion is finally having some effect. Axon (formerly Taser) has temporarily halted its plans to introduce facial recognition tech into its body cameras and Google is stepping away from its development of this tech for government agencies. Unfortunately, Amazon has shown no desire to step away from the surveillance state precipice and is continuing to sell its own brand of facial recognition to law enforcement agencies as well as co-opting citizens' doorways into its surveillance network with its Ring doorbell/cameras.It's a solid win for residents of the state. The ban blocks the use of facial recognition tech by state law enforcement until the end of 2022. It also blocks the use of other biometric surveillance tech and prevents law enforcement from using existing biometric data to feed any predictive policing tools agencies might be using or planning on implementing. With more states and cities willing to at least undertake serious discussions of the implications of facial recognition tech, it's unlikely California will remain the odd state out in the biometric surveillance race.
Dice, an ancient invention developed in many early cultures, found their way to ancient Greek and Roman culture. It helped that both societies had believers in numerology, an almost religious link between the divine and numbers.So common were games of dice in Roman culture that Roman emperors wrote about their exploits in dice games such as Alea. These gambling games were ultimately outlawed during the rise of Christianity in Roman civilization, because they allegedly promoted immoral tendencies.More often than not, the concerns about games were used as a political tool to manipulate public sentiment. As one legal historian puts it, statutes on dice games in ancient Rome were only sporadically and selectively enforced what we would call 'sports betting' was exempted. The rolling of dice was prohibited because it was gambling, but wagering on the outcomes of sport were not. Until of course, sports themselves came under fire.The history of the Book of Sports, a 17th-century compendium of declarations of King James I of England, demonstrates the next phase of fears about games. The royal directives outlined what sports and leisure activities were appropriate to engage in after Sunday religious services.In the early 1600s, the book became the subject of a religious tug of war between Catholic and Puritan ideals. Puritans complained that the Church of England needed to be purged of more influences from Roman Catholicism - and liked neither the idea of play on Sundays nor how much people liked doing it.In the end, English Puritans had the book burned. As a Time magazine article put it, Sport grew up through Puritanism like flowers in a macadam prison yard. Sports, like board games of the past, were stifled and the subject of much ire in the past and present.
Pinball in the 20th century
In the middle part of the 20th century, one particular type of game emerged as a frequent target of politician concern - and playing it was even outlawed in cities across the country.That game was pinball. But the parallels with today's concerns about video games are clear.In her history of moral panics about elements of popular culture, historian Karen Sternheimer observed that the invention of the coin-operated pinball game coincided with a time when young people - and unemployed adults - had a growing amount of leisure time on their hands.As a result, she wrote, it didn't take long for pinball to show up on moral crusaders' radar; just five years spanned between the invention of the first coin-operated machines in 1931 to their ban in Washington, D.C., in 1936.New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia argued that pinball machines were from the devil and brought moral corruption to young people. He famously used a sledgehammer to destroy pinball machines confiscated during the city's ban, which lasted from 1942 to 1976.His complaints sound very similar to modern-day concerns that video games contribute to unemployment at a time when millennials are one of the most underemployed generations.Even the cost of penny arcade pinball machines raised political alarms about wasting children's money, in much the way that politicians declare they have problems with small purchases and electronic treasure boxes in video games.As far back as the Buddha's own teachings, moral leaders were warning about addicting games and recreations including throwing dice, Games with balls and even turning somersaults, recommending the pious hold themselves aloof from such games and recreations.Then, as now, play was caught in society-wide discussions that really had nothing to do with gaming - and everything to do with keeping or creating an established moral order.Lindsay Grace, Knight Chair of Interactive Media; Associate Professor of Communication, University of Miami.This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.