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DPA blocks facial recognition system in Italy and MP proposes moratorium (reclaimyourface.eu)
115 points by giuliomagnifico 13 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 57 comments





I still nod in disbelief when i see people unlocking with faceid. Apple may be privacy conscious, but they made face recognition cheap and ubiquitous. The pervasive use of face recognition should be considered a mark of a prison state, a country where people don't trust each other and it is only held together under the watchful eye of the prison guards.

It also makes it trivial to unlock your phone under coercion. Same for fingerprints. Whereas nobody can (yet) get a code out of your brain.

They can, however, still coerce you to give away your text-based password. I agree, though, that slicing one's finger off is simpler for all parties.

You don’t even need to slice, just manhandle. It’s easy and mechanical, can be done in a few minutes in a dark alley. Whereas a code, any code, requires a degree of cooperation that the individual can choose never to grant.

(Obviously a lot of people will grant it, but a sufficiently motivated person - human-rights activist, political dissenter, journalist, etc etc - might not)


If we’re getting that deep into the hypotheticals, couldn’t said person just not set up biometric logins?

For the rest of us where physical coercion to unlock the phone isn’t in the threat model, it really does improve on the trade offs between security and convenience.

Feels disproportionate to say we should not do the latter because of the former.


Your threat model likely involves simple robbery; making you “look here” is quick and painless, and increases the loot value significantly. And yes, biometrics in general are not good. The best protection remains a pin or passcode.

If they're going to physically threaten you into unlocking your phone, a PIN or passcode won't change that.

Pickpocketers minimize any physical contact. Biometrics protect against them. PINs do not. Anecdotally I know about an iPhone that got unlocked after a theft at a party. It was protected by a PIN. The owner thinks that the pickpocketer learned the PIN by looking over his shoulder.

On the other side burglars can get into a house and force people to unlock their phones or reveal their passwords, if they care to. There is no protection against that unless those people value their secrets more than the harm the burglars will do to them.

All considered, I unlock with my fingerprints.


We're not talking about the same adversaries here. If the police unlock people's phone by pointing it at their face it'll be done with impunity and in a widespread manner. Less so if they start cutting off fingers.

In the U.S. at least, passwords are protected under the 5th amendment but you can be ordered to unlock a phone with a fingerprint or a face since it's something you are and not something you know.

> passwords are protected under the 5th amendment

This is not the case, at least, the law is not very settled in that direction. There has been at least one famous case [0] where an appeals court found that a defendant could be help in contempt of court and imprisoned for refusing to provide his password.

[0] https://www.theregister.com/2017/03/20/appeals_court_contemp...


State actors would have zero issues lifting a fingerprint off a phone, then making a prop for the sensor. Alternatively all they need is a minor tranquilizer and there you go, provided the human asset is available.

Sorry I was unclear, I meant "cutting fingers" as an example of torture meant to extract passwords, not in the sense that they'd use the finger to unlock the phone. Face-ID and fingerprints share the same issues compared to a password.


The wrench can be resisted by determined individuals; whereas fingerprints and face-recog cannot.

The wrench does not represent physical torture, but metaphorical, basically representing a pressure point tailored to each individual.

People resist torture all of the time. The problem with torture is that there's often little reason to think that the torture would end if you give up the password, other than the word of the torturer.

Like I said, the wrench is not physical torture. By pressure point I meant things like blackmail, threats against your family or loved ones, etc.

Everyone has something valuable to lose.


There are a number of ways to quickly disable faceid if you need to, the simplest being holding the power off buttons for just a few seconds.

fingerprint is actually extra easy - the phone is plastered with them.

The UK Met Police have been using facial recognition systems on London without regulation for a while, under the same law, - it'd be nice for our ICO to make a ruling on it.

Imagine a nightmare if this thing erroneously matches you with a criminal.

You get arrested. Then police take a closer look, then release you...

In italy...

What about Italy?

Are there more criminals in that country as opposed to other places?


No, as a matter of fact it's the opposite, Italy has relatively low violent crime levels.

What Italy has, though, is very violent and abusive law enforcement, to the point where it's unbecoming of a first-world country.

So I can definitely see how that would be a concern.


As an Italian constantly exposed to American videos showing clear irrational US based police brutality, I am not sure what you are talking about. Have you got any sources supporting these claims?

I'm Italian as well, btw.

Just off the top of my head: - 2001 raid on Armando Diaz. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001_Raid_on_Armando_Diaz

"The detainees were given few or no blankets, kept awake by guards, given little or no food and denied their statutory right to make phone calls and see a lawyer. They could hear crying and screaming from other cells. Police doctors at the facility also participated in the torture, using ritual humiliation, threats of rape and deprivation of water, food, sleep and medical care."

None of the responsible parties served any time.

- Way too many to count cold blooded murders of people in custody. The Aldrovandi, Cucchi and Magherini cases are emblematic as they at least got covered by the media.

- Violence against minorities, for example: https://www.statewatch.org/media/documents/news/2009/mar/Eve...

- Illegal detentions, for example: https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2019-07-28/califo...

- General lack of accountability and transparency.

- Widespread abuse of power by intimidation.

- Flat out lies, helped by crap media. I'll bet you $1,000 that on Dec 25, 2021, the news will report a variant of the following story: an elderly person called the police because they were lonely and wanted a friend to share a glass of spumante with.


> Just off the top of my head: - 2001 raid on Armando Diaz.

That's 20 years ago, if there is widespread abuse, you'd have something in mind more recent.


20 years ago are not that long ago, neither 30, also the police does massive profiling during protests, I've had plenty of friends being profiled (pictures + videos + cross checks) during mild protests just because they were waivings signs.

let me rephrase, the italian police does actively get your pictures, cross checks you, and do a profile about you without even being recognized as a previously person of interest to law enforcement


1) The other examples in the same comment are more recent.

2) What happened there was so bad Italy was found in violation of ECHR. That nothing has substantially changed is in and of itself a major part of the problem.


I'm Italian too. It's a problem but honestly our famous cases of policy brutality would barely make the news in the USA, which IIRC had municipal police run off-the-records torture sites.

I'm kind of enjoying this family fight. I miss meeting my Italian friends. :)

US police brutality would be unbecoming of a third world country let alone the first world, but that doesn't say anything about Italy.

The Amanda Knox insanity is more recent. The convicted two people for the same crime - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Meredith_Kercher#Tri...

Very violent as compared to what? Do you have data to confirm these claims?

Actually I thought it was an idea that all Italians look the same

We need to block it on a federal level in the USA. Don't allow any state to use facial recognition software for any reason, except maybe at airports, but only for terrorism---not for any other reason.

> but only for terrorism

That little loophole right there would soon be big enough to let through a freight train.


Exactly, the definition of terrorist is very malleable in the hands of despots.

Isn't terrorism specifically the reason behind the Patriot Act and all limitations that American citizens are suffering?

I'm pretty sure the only way to block it is at the local level. There is no compelling incentive for the federal government to not support the expansion of facial recognition technologies.

Our politicians might be convinced to introduce token pieces of legislation that can conveniently be voted down by the other side, and just enough of their fellow party members. But that's about it.


Colour me skeptical. The USA pioneered such abusive innovations as perpetual copyright, pervasive hardware-level DRM and rootkits, and surveillance capitalism. I can't see protections against something as powerful as facial recognition coming from a society that didn't oppose similarly abusive tech.

> The USA pioneered such abusive innovations as perpetual copyright

The US change from a fixed 28 year term that could be renewed once to a life of author + 50 years term was done to match the minimum term allowed under the Berne Convention, which most of the world had already done decades before.

In 1998 the US lengthened the term again, to life + 70 years. That one was to match Europe, which had made that change in 1993.


I like the popular myth more: Copyright in the US is prolonged as required to keep Mickey mouse away from the public domain. :)

Who will watch the watchers? It isn't like there was no crime/terrorism before 1995. Look at how ex-AG Barr wanted backdoors in everything but they "promised" to only use it responsibly and with warrants. Do you sincerely believe that?

Sounds like a modern-day version of Luddism.

We don't need to block it. We need to embrace it and make sure it's used properly, safely and with accountability. We're not talking about nuclear warheads here. There has to be a safe and secure way to get the benefits of large-scale and centralized facial-recognition and tracking.


> We're not talking about nuclear warheads here.

True, we're talking about something worse. The danger is higher and the detectability and barriers to entry are lower.


Once systems are in place, all it takes is a change in will of who controls it.

This is precisely my objection to anyone who suggests such things are put in place. The Stasi would have simply loved to just inherit an all-pervasive, comprehensive surveillance system from a more peaceful predecessor.

> We need to embrace it and make sure it's used properly

This has never worked, period.


Except if the embrace is a death-embrace in which you carry the technology with you to the netherworld, leaving none of it behind... and 'used properly' means 'utterly destroyed'

> We're not talking about nuclear warheads here.

No, we're not. Those damage the physical world. Facial recognition will damage something else in the long run - the society - which is just as dangerous.


You know what else damages society? Rape, murder, kidnapping, arson. Facial recognition software, used responsibly under a strict and throughly-audited regulatory scheme, can assist law enforcement in more quickly and reliably apprehending suspects in such cases. I see absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t be used, given the proper legal and regulatory framework.

There’s a point where things can go too far. When we have machines violating our privacy and manipulating social expression (behaviors change when people know they are being watched and tracked), that’s a problem. In the end it’s corporations and governments doing this, why all of a sudden have we forgotten how most of the time they don’t have our best interest in mind and only greed and power?

What are the benefits? The only thing I can think might be that for a shot while you can catch some criminals but as they learned to use gloves they will learn to use masks,

After that what benefits are there for creating a database with everyone historical location?


Well, there you have it. It creates jobs in the high-end mask accessories industry.



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