LFI.2 Week 3 discussion thread

Hi all! Great talk from Kade Crockford. The only issue is that I originally asked them to talk about surveillance technology acquisition and funding, and they only talked about facial recognition. LOL. But it’s cool, we were gonna cover that in a few weeks anyway. So I’m posting the questions from the facial recognition week, as well as the readings we were going to cover in that week. Let’s talk facial/biometrics this week, and I’ll have Varoon Mathur cover some other aspects of Artificial Intelligence and ethics.

Discussion questions:

  • How can we bring information about this facial recognition and other biometric technology into our communities?
  • How can librarians get involved in efforts to control the use of these technologies?
  • How are we (LFI) going to organize to get ALA to take a stand against facial recognition?

AI Now Report 2018 (quite long, FYI) https://ainowinstitute.org/AI_Now_2018_Report.pdf
NYT report on bias in facial recognition: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/24/technology/amazon-facial-technology-study.html
Some info on the ACLU coalition working on municipal bans: https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/the-privacy-risks-of-unchecked-facial-recognition-technology/
More on the ACLU coalition: https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2019/jan/17/ACLU-facial-recognition/
San Francisco bans facial recognition: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/14/us/facial-recognition-ban-san-francisco.html

BTW, I mentioned this already, but Library Freedom Project is part of that anti-facial recognition coalition!!! So that means you’re all in it too. Welcome. :slight_smile:

If you shared links in the chat, please share them here too!

Here’s a link on dazzle camo: https://ahprojects.com/cvdazzle/. @jefflambert, I’d love to hear more about the QPL program you did on dazzle camo.

I am emailing Kade now to get the language to share with our city council people. I think we can probably use some of that language for crafting a demand to ALA as well.

I’m going to make another thread for talking about book display ideas.

Lastly, here is a link to Kade’s talk on CCTV for last year’s LFI: https://vimeo.com/276286612

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In today’s chat, I shared this link from the EFF on opting out of facial recognition in use by some airlines. I am flying JetBlue and Delta this summer, so went looking for opt out information. This article also echoes Kate Crockford’s talk where she discussed the lack of regulations in the use of biometrics.


I was looking up when we can do here in NYC for privacy advocacy and found this op-ed from the Times written last month about how the city hasn’t passed a two-year old bill regarding surveillance tech regulation.

I feel as more of our communities come into our libraries to learn about tech (be it Cortana, unlocking our phones with facial recognition, and other biometrics) we should inform our uses how this works and that the data used may be collected and used elsewhere.

I’m especially concerned about what’s happening in Minneapolis with their librarian-less libraries that works using video monitoring. Could this be weaponized as Kade mentioned and bar certain users from the library? Is this a trend that’s going to continue to happen due to austerity programs and decreasing library budgets?

Hi all!

Really enjoyed today’s lecture and the readings on CCOPS! Jumping in quickly with a link to materials from QPL’s three-part series on surveillance technologies that my team put together earlier this year. This program was offered at our Queensbridge Tech Lab, a makerspace that is co-located in one of the largest public housing developments in the US. The second session pays particular focus to CV Dazzle, facial recognition technology, and strategies to confuse or disable computer vision by obscuring the facial features that these algorithms use to map face prints.

How are we (LFI) going to organize to get ALA to take a stand against facial recognition?

I don’t know if I should be this vulnerable yet, but I don’t know where else to start this conversation. I don’t get how ALA works. Mostly I just fake it because I am trying to figure it out without looking totally lost, but I don’t get it. So, having said that… I am a member and I am fairly involved in portions of the organization, so if it is at all possible for me to use my involvement to help LFI get ALA to stand against facial recognition technology, I want to do it.

I am currently on the ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee, the Intellectual Freedom Round Table Board, and a PLA Leadership Fellow. Is there anything that I can do directly or indirectly?

I know that may seem like a silly question, but I honestly don’t know what is happening most of the time except that a lot of what is happening seems like nonsense. That isn’t even a criticism at this point because I am not sure I know enough for it to be a criticism, although I do reserve the right to be critical once I understand how it all works.

Where is the power in ALA? Who or what groups need to be influenced for ALA to take a stand? What is the best way to accomplish something within ALA? If anyone can help me with understanding that, then I want to help with this.


I work in Hennepin County in Minnesota, one of the systems mentioned in this article. Right now, Hennepin County is only using this in a couple locations that are currently being renovated. They are only a place to pick up holds – not for any other library services (there’s not even any furniture for people to stay and sit). There is a bit of fear among some of my colleagues, but mainly because of the potential for staff cuts. I am not sure if anyone is approaching it yet as an issue of privacy, but this is also a concern, especially if Bibliotheca, the vendor, were to use video monitoring system beyond the “dumb” capabilities. Now I am curious if this is the same vendor that someone encountered at ALA who wanted to replace gate counts with facial recognition. Who was that who mentioned it during discussion today? Do you remember if this is the same vendor?

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Yeah, the staff cuts scares me as well! I’m fearful of automated libraries that take away the humans and human interaction.

I know Jason Griffey (Measure the Future) was working on an open source/hardware gate counting program that I think was using facial recognition. What’s great about that is the libraries utilizing those devices keeps the data.

Absolutely. There are huge opportunities for public education here. We could make posters explaining how facial recognition works. We could craft policies about why WE don’t use facial recognition, and by promoting those policies it’s another method of teaching.

This series looks awesome Jeff. I’m interested in how reception of it went? How many people attended? What kinds of questions did you get? How long did you run each session? Will you do it again? Also, did you actually test out the dazzle camouflage makeup? I’d love to see a hands-on program do that!

Ashley, thank you for your vulnerability. I also don’t totally get how ALA works. It’s inscrutable! There’s ALA Council, which does some things, and we could try to pass a resolution, which seems just kind of performative. ALA the organization signs on to stuff all the time as an organization, and so what’s the decision-making behind that? Is that the executive board? There’s the ALA president and the ALA executive director that we could appeal to. But I think maybe the starting point is to influence those ALA groups that we’re involved with first, and try to get them to sign on to a demand. And that starts with making a demand, which we could work on together.

Another thread that we’ll see again and again is the connections between privacy and labor. All this big data, artificial intelligence, and automation means taking jobs away from humans. I wish that that meant we were getting closer to the fully automated luxury gay space communist future, but without the other necessary components in place like, I dunno, abolishing capitalism, all those eliminated jobs are just going to make for massive inequality.

I don’t think Measure the Future uses facial recognition, unless he’s changed up the project massively. I think they were basically motion detectors? But it’s true that the data would be held by the library only. Jason got a Knight Foundation grant for Measure the Future when I got my first Library Freedom Project grant.

In response to this question, I wonder if we could collectively develop a presentation or poster that we all could use at our state or regional conferences. I am no longer a member of ALA or MN Library Association, but I would rejoin for the opportunity to take a stand on this issue. I feel like I still need to learn a lot more about this issue in order to be a better advocate; Kade’s presentation just scratched the surface, I’m sure!


I work at City College of San Francisco, a community college with a diverse student body. Since facial recognition was recently banned in San Francisco, we have the advantage of this work already being done in my community. Focusing on the city’s efforts to ban facial recognition can be used to exemplify the dangers/risks of biometrics. Some ways that I think that we could educate our community, are to create workshops or trainings geared towards faculty, staff, administrators and students. For instance, the library often produces workshops that are presented on faculty professional development days. These workshops typically draw a large audience. We could create a presentation on biometrics and other privacy issues, that address how to protect the privacy of themselves and their students. In our main library, we also have a makerspace/collaboratory where we could host student-centric privacy workshops with a focus on social justice. In this case, we could partner with other groups on campus with similar interests. I believe that all of these types of workshops or trainings could be tied into student success.

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Hi @Ajb!

I am also pretty perplexed about how ALA operates, so you are not alone. I have joined sections but involving myself in them has been a bit of challenge; they seem disconnected. As it happens, I have a remote meeting scheduled with ALA-DC on communications. I could work in a few questions about messaging and how ALA decides what to pick up? She knows that I am in LFI already and I don’t suspect she’d mind if I asked her a few questions?




You certainly aren’t alone feeling that way. I’m on a few committees/sections myself and it’s always hard to get them to work inter departmentally.

That being said, I’m part of a few groups that can help with this if you want me to move forward. I’m part of the IFC Privacy Subcommittee and the Top Tech Trends (biometrics as a trend anyone?).

I’ll back ya up, if ya want.

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Here is a link for a bit more information on how facial recognition works. It’s from the Glass Room (I’m keep plugging it, because it’s cool).



Hi all, I love where you’re all thinking with the facial recognition/ALA stuff. My suggestion is that we start with a shared set of talking points where we define the problem, we address common responses (eg “shouldn’t we just make the technology somehow less racist, wouldn’t that make it okay?”), and then make a clear demand (“ALA should take a public stance against facial recognition and reject all vendor products which implement it”).

I just arrived in Tunisia, I need to get out and walk in the sunshine to avoid the jetlag that’s seeping in, but I will come back later with some more thoughts and a more substantive response for the talking points.


WP has an article about avoiding facial recognition at the airport, I figured I’d share on this thread since that seems to be the thing to do!

Reading articles & hearing about how color & gender blind facial recognition technology can be has taken this issue to the next level for me. This hits home for me as a librarian in an urban environment. Shorty after the 2016 election, we started posting signs in every library clearly stating that we welcome everyone (ful stop). I have seen first hand the fear people have when asking for help with immigration, getting a library card, etc. because they don’t want to give us personal information since we are a government entity. If you add something like facial recognition into the equation, already tough conversations are only going to get tougher & barriers for access as well as trust will be thrown into the stratosphere. More secure automated checkout is not worth sacrificing trust with our communities, right to personal privacy, & greater access for all (let alone the library staffing implications of such technology).

Reading the articles that Howard sent out a few weeks ago absolutely horrified me. It horrified me further when I realized that I do not believe that our own government would not use these technologies in similar ways. They might not be as brazen & open about it as Xinjiang, but I definitely don’t put anything past them the more I learn & the older I get.

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Similar to the CCOPS document, I’d think about demanding transparency from authorities, including library administration, a good place to start as part of assessing threats and figuring out where to focus advocacy and other initiatives (programming, exhibits, e.g.). I work in a city public library so it’s a good chance that the same surveillance technologies are deployed elsewhere within the city. I imagine library security operations are setup quite differently in different communities. Here at my library security staff are contracted by the City (prob for liability?) and under the purview of the director of operations and the Library manager. I have no idea how library surveillance tech is funded or operated, so it begs the all the questions brought up in the CCOPS doc.

I let my ALA membership lapse. I have to agree with Ashley about not really understanding how ALA works and how it can benefit me other than some professional development opportunities and legislative lobbying. It’s not like other professional orgs that actually have some teeth. I think our Unions are the way to go in pursuing anti-surveillance policies where we can think about libraries as not just public spaces but also workplaces. It worked for smoke-free workplaces!

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Okay, finally a free moment in Tunis where I can sit down and substantially reply!

@malaniz I love the idea of educating your community around the SF ban. I wonder if you might also think about how the ban could go further. For example, private companies are still allowed to use facial recognition in SF. I wonder what privacy activists are doing about this? I wonder if we might get you in touch with some folks at EFF (who are based in SF) to find out? A few of them are here at RightsCon. I’ll check in with them.

@apuglisi I am starting another thread about working on some facial recognition actions so let’s communicate there about the different pieces of ALA that we can press on about this and how we want to go about doing it. @_TJ you get in there too.

@Jessica – I absolutely agree. We can’t guarantee that welcoming environment if the technology we use is betraying our patrons.

@Maty_C I like your thought about demanding transparency, and I am personally really looking forward to the week where we’ll hear from Brian Hofer, an Oakland activist who has done a lot of work on municipal privacy using public records requests and the like. I also think the union approach is intriguing. Let’s talk about it in the facial recognition thread!

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I like the analogy of smoke-free workplaces! I was living in NYC when their ban came into effect, and I thought it was going to be impossible to change. Bars and smoking were just a fact. And then one day, they weren’t. We simply weren’t able to visualize a better world until we saw it in action.

I’ll also chime in about the ALA confusion. After 7 years in library world, I’m just starting to figure out my regional association (NYLA.) I just re-joined ALA this year for the conference, and feel like I understand about 5% of what’s going on there.

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I watched the ACLU video with our pass week speaker Kade. The video that dealt with CCTV in libraries. We do have one where I work. There are only two branches that have the CCTV out of 16. Ours had been down for a long time and last week we finally got it up and going again. I am the only person in the branch that has access. We use it only if we have problems. When we needed it (we had a flasher) it was not working. Which is good because even though all the library staff are suppose to be trained we have some go getters who may do things like give the video to police before we can catch them.