New York City Business Owners Aren’t Happy About Facial Recognition Ban Prompted By New York City Business Owner
from the maybe-take-it-up-with-MSG-Entertainment dept
Things are getting heated in the city that never
sleeps stops bitching. Private business owners don’t much care for the city telling them how to run their business, even when said business involves perhaps careless use of problematic tech.
Grocery store owners in New York City oppose a bill that would limit use of facial recognition software, saying the algorithms reduce shoplifting. The measure, introduced to the city council early last month, calls for businesses to inform customers and get their written consent before using biometric recognition on them or face a $5,000 fine.
That’s the dry, straight-to-the-point recap provided by Larisa Redins for Biometric Update. Here’s the Fox News version, which uses the phrase “Grocers Furious” in its headline:
New York City grocers are expressing outrage over a push by city council members to ban facial recognition technology stores rely on to deter shoplifting due to concerns of racial discrimination.
Ferreira Foodtown CEO Jason Ferreira joined “Fox & Friends” Tuesday to call out the suggestion as thefts continue to rock businesses in the Big Apple.
Ferreira, who has been in business for over 45 years, said the shoplifting has never been worse.
“It’s spreading,” he said. “It’s not only people that are doing it professionally. We have people that are doing it just because they can get away with it. And the gamut runs from children to people that are older.”
Given this spin, it would appear it’s just the city placing a boot heel on the smallest of its businesses — businesses that are now being robbed non-stop by people who are children and/or are older than children.
I don’t doubt that shoplifting poses a problem for retailers and is felt far more acutely by small business owners. I also have my own concerns about the government telling businesses what tech they may or may not deploy to protect their bottom lines.
But this anger is displaced. A definitely not-small-at-all New York City business owner is directly responsible for this legislation, thanks to his willingness to discriminate against perceived enemies of his business with the aid of facial recognition tech.
Let’s revisit some earlier articles written by [checks byline] Tim Cushing at this very site:
Even if you have the leeway to ban people from your premises, the question remains whether you should do so, especially when the bans appear to be vindictive. Earlier this month, some New York City lawyers reported they were being blocked from entering venues operated by MSG Entertainment, the company that owns Madison Square Garden and other city entertainment venues. These bans — enforced by MSG’s use of facial recognition tech — prevented a mother from joining her daughter and her Girl Scout troop during a visit to Radio City Music Hall. Another lawyer was booted from a Knicks game at the Garden after being flagged by MSG’s tech.
This entirely new problem could be traced back to MSG’s chief executive, James L. Dolan. Last summer, he instituted a ban affecting lawyers working for firms engaged in litigation against MSG Entertainment. The ban was supposed to prevent adversarial lawyers from engaging in freelance discovery while attending events. The problem was the ban targeted all lawyers at these firms, rather than just those actually engaging in litigation.
These actions, which were exposed by the lawyers targeted by Dolan and MSG Entertainment, led directly to the proposed legislation these presumable mom-and-pop stores are now complaining about to Fox News commentators.
Sure, these proprietors are correct that it’s the city government pursuing this legislation. But the only reason it exists is because a billionaire businessman decided the best use of facial recognition tech was to deny certain ticketholders access to events they paid to attend solely because they worked for law firms currently involved in litigation against his company.
And yet, these “furious grocers” aren’t calling out a billionaire for wielding questionable tech for completely vindictive purposes. Instead, they’re complaining that the city doesn’t care how often they get ripped off by shoplifters.
I do understand the anger. They have every right to protect their profitability. If they believe facial recognition tech will aid in that, then they probably should be able to use it. But if they continue to ignore the fact that someone else in the private sector abused the tech so often and so blatantly it moved the city government to propose a ban, they’re ignoring the very real possibility that one of their “furious” own will do the same thing. It’s inevitable.
This tech can be useful. But this tech is also inevitably abused because it’s able to do what security people can’t: lock people out of goods or services in microseconds. And that’s just the private sector side. In the hands of the government, it can lock people out of life and liberty. Even when it’s wrong, those deploying the tech assume it to be right. People who support this tech believe it is smarter and more accurate than they could ever be. Doubting its determinations — even when there’s tons of evidence showing this tech still underperforms when dealing with minorities — is never a consideration.
If grocers want to be angry, maybe they should direct their focus to the billionaire asshole who made this legislation a presumptive necessity. I want small businesses to succeed. But succeeding means recognizing the source of your problems, rather than seeking out the most convenient target for your anger.