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Our Biometric Future

Facial Recognition Technology and the Culture of Surveillance

Kelly Gates, 0, 0

Publication Year: 2011

“A groundbreaking study. Our Biometric Future considers facial recognition technology through its wide range of political entanglements, such as post-9/11 security measures, the management of urban populations in commercial districts, and self-representation in online social networking sites. Across these contexts, Gates shows how facial recognition's political effects have developed in spite of the fact that the technology does not actually work very well. Written with style and wit, Our Biometric Future will resonate with readers in cultural studies, new media, science and technology studies, and anyone interested in surveillance, privacy and security in contemporary life.”

Published by: NYU Press

Front Matter

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pp. vii


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pp. viii

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pp. x

This book began as a research project in the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and I wish to thank all my friends and colleagues who made my experience there so personally rewarding and intellectually transformative. I am also grateful to my colleagues in the Media Studies Department at Queens College, and...

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Introduction: Experimenting with the Face

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pp. 1-24

The September 11 terrorist attacks generated an enormous flood of imagery, and among the deluge was a grainy shot of two of the alleged attackers taken early that morning at a security checkpoint in the Portland, Maine, airport. The recorded video image, which appears to show Mohammad Atta...

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1. Facial Recognition Technology from the Lab to the Marketplace

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pp. 25-62

At the 1970s World’s Fair in Osaka, Japan, the Nippon Electric Company (NEC) staged an attraction called “Computer Physiognomy.” Visitors to the exhibit would sit in front of a television camera to have their pictures taken and then fed into a computer where a simple program would extract...

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2. Police Power and the Smart CCTV Experiment

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pp. 63-96

In her classic essay “Tales from the Cutting Room Floor” published in Harper’s, Debra Seagal recounts five and a half months in 1992 that she spent working as a “story analyst” for the television show American Detective. Referred to in-house as a “logger,” Seagal’s job involved sitting in front of a “computer/VCR/print monitor/TV screen/headphone console,” scrutinizing...

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3. Finding the Face of Terror in Data

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pp. 97-124

In his keynote address at the September 2002 Biometrics Consortium Conference, Dr. Robert L. Popp, then deputy director of DARPA’s newly formed Information Awareness Office, began by showing a promotional video for the “Total Information Awareness” (TIA) program. TIA would later...

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4.Inventing the Security-Conscious,Tech-Savvy Citizen

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pp. 125-150

In early 2008, Lenovo, the company that acquired IBM’s PC division, released a new line of laptops equipped with VeriFace facial recognition software. Instead of using a password to log in to their computers, users of these laptops have their pictures taken and verified against previously enrolled facial images. The software supports multiple user...

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5. Automated Facial Expression Analysis and the Mobilization of Affect

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pp. 151-190

As he recalls it, Joseph Weizenbaum was moved to write his book Computer Power and Human Reason as a result of the public reaction to his experimental language analysis program, named ELIZA, that he developed at MIT in the mid-1960s.1 ELIZA’s incarnation as DOCTOR, a parody version of a psychotherapist asking inane reflexive questions, was wildly misinterpreted as an intelligent system, according to Weizenbaum. Much to his...

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pp. 191-200

I began this book with reference to a surveillance camera image that circulated in the media after September 11, 2001, allegedly depicting two of the hijackers passing through airport security that morning. The faces of the men in the video frame were barely visible, and that, combined with its sheer...


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pp. 201-240


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pp. 241-252


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pp. 253-262

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About the Author

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pp. 263

Kelly A. Gates is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication and the Science Studies Program at the...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814732793
E-ISBN-10: 0814732798
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814732090
Print-ISBN-10: 0814732097

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2011