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The changing face of protest

Rest of World: “…Over the past decade, there has been a steep rise globally in law enforcement using facial recognition technology. Data gathered by Steven Feldstein, a researcher with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, found that government agencies in 78 countries now use public facial recognition systems. The public is often supportive of the use of such tech: 59% of U.K. adults told a survey they “somewhat” or “strongly” support police use of facial recognition technology in public spaces, and a Pew Research study found 46% of U.S. adults said they thought it was a good idea for society. In China, one study found that 51% of respondents approved of facial recognition tech in the public sphere, while in India, 69% of people said in a 2023 report that they supported its use by the police. But while authorities generally pitch facial recognition as a tool to capture terrorists or wanted murderers, the technology has also emerged as a critical instrument in a very particular context: punishing protesters…In countries where demonstrating can come with physical or political risk, large-scale protests have historically offered a degree of anonymity, and, with it, a level of protection. Mass protests are a way for citizens to express dissent as a collective — often under the assumption that “they can’t arrest us all.” But in the last decade, the spread of facial recognition technology has changed that equation: A lone face in a crowd is no longer anonymous; facial recognition allows authorities to capture people’s identities en masse…”

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