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PRETZEL LOGIC: GOVERNMENT MASK-PUSHING NECESSITATES NEW SURVEILLANCE TECH. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is holding a 2021 Biometric Rally this fall in Maryland. One of the items on their agenda: solving problems with identifying citizens wearing face masks.
DHS is calling on tech companies that specialize in biometric “acquisition” technologies (i.e. facial recognition, etc.) to submit technology proposals to address the dilemma. The department’s Science and Technology Biometric and Identity Technology Center Director Arun Vemury said in a statement:
“In the past year, we have seen tremendous innovation from the biometrics industry to adapt to new challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. We observed very strong performances from technology developers; especially in their ability to recognize individuals under previously challenging situations. Now it’s time to see if further innovation and improvement can be achieved to further reduce errors and provide more consistent and equitable performance under challenging conditions.”
Vemury told the government and tech company conduit website NextGov that DHS currently employs biometric tech that can accurately identify people wearing masks in about eight out of ten cases. But he said improvements are still needed.
One of the goals of the more sophisticated surveillance is to process people in groups, as opposed to technology, which only works effectively with individuals in a line or cue.
The ability to identify people within groups would undoubtedly have utility in surveilling citizens in a wide variety of contexts.
The Federal government, mostly via dictates by the CDC, heavily pushed mask-wearing to mitigate the spread of COVID in the spring of 2020, after advising citizens early on not to wear masks. Scientific evidence regarding the efficacy of masks is questionable and controversial. There are no standards regarding masks as far as materials, fit, testing of specific products, etc.