Kyodo: The government plans to restart from August a test on a facial recognition system to speed up immigration checks at airports and prepare for an expected surge in visitors for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, officials said Saturday.
COMMENT: Let’s survey the narratives of justification in this article. We have the argument that it’s allegedly for a looming event (NJ swarm from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, even though it’s more than six years away!), the convenience factor (faster processing of people, this time without even registering!), and the bandwagon argument that others are implementing it (Britain and Australia, whose civil societies have had more robust debates on the issues of privacy and civil liberties). All of these arguments were made during the reinstitution of NJ fingerprinting in 2007, and that time it wasn’t for a specific event, but rather for anti-terrorism [sic] in general. And as Debito.org has argued many times before, once you get the public softened up on the idea of taking away civil liberties by testing it on one sector of the population (in this case, the Gaijin Guinea Pigs, since foreigners in every society have fewer civil and political rights), it gets expanded on the rest of the population. Let’s enter the No-Brainer Zone: I anticipate the facial recognition software will be implemented nationwide more seamlessly than any other intrusive technology yet, since it is so convenient and doesn’t require individual registry or even much hardware installation. There’s even a profit motive. Consider this:
JT Editorial: Over 100 supermarkets and convenience stores in the Tokyo metropolitan area have been recording images of shoppers’ faces as part of antishoplifting measures. Though the stores have posted signs stating cameras are in place, the stores have been sharing the biometric data of customers without their knowledge. […] The problem is the lack of checks on the system. Seemingly whoever has access to the network could classify customers according to an arbitrary criterion. But what constitutes an “unreasonable” complaint is open to question. And whether an act of shoplifting is reported to the police and whether the suspect is convicted of the crime is a matter of the law. It should not be a matter of how an employee feels about it. Unfortunately with this technology, stores are now able to put people on a blacklist for any reason whatsoever.
COMMENT FROM SJ AND PHU: What if this employee is inherently suspicious of all foreigners in general, or harbors racist feelings towards anyone who does not appear Japanese? Such an employee can end up blacklisting and tagging a foreign shopper not for anything specific that the customer has done, but rather out of the employee’s own paranoia against non-Japanese shoppers… Japan’s pronounced discrimination problem does make it hard to ignore the likelihood of abuse skewing towards minorities.