When Jillian York, a 36-year-old US activist, was on vacation in February, she received an unexpected text. Her friend Adam Harvey, another activist and researcher, had discovered photos of her in a US government database used to train facial-recognition algorithms, and wondered whether she knew about it.  York, who works in Berlin for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights non-profit group, did not. She was stunned to discover that the database contained nearly a dozen images of her, a mixture of photos and YouTube video stills, taken over a period of almost a decade.  When she dug into what the database was used for, it dawned on her that her face had helped to build systems used by the federal government to recognise faces of interest, including suspected criminals, terrorists and illegal aliens. “What struck me immediately was the range of times they cover,” York says. “The first images were from 2008, all the way through to 2015.” Two of the photos, by a photograp...

BL Premium

This article is reserved for our subscribers.

A subscription helps you enjoy the best of our business content every day along with benefits such as exclusive Financial Times articles, ProfileData financial data, and digital access to the Sunday Times and Times Select.

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems? Email helpdesk@businesslive.co.za or call 0860 52 52 00. Got a subscription voucher? Redeem it now