Jo’s Day – 10 June 2019

Jo started the day by agreeing with Jeremy Hunt. No, really:

In the Commons, Jo questioned Said Javid on a key civil liberties issue:

In his remarks about facial recognition technology earlier, the Minister for Policing rightly spoke about the need to take the public with us. Does the Secretary of State recognise that the imposition of Big Brother-style surveillance and fining people for covering their face with their coat is no way to secure the public’s trust? Will the Government halt the use of live facial recognition technology in policing until there has been a proper public debate, Parliament has considered a framework and there are civil liberties safeguards?

Unfortunately Javid’s desire to legislate in a really awful way came shining through.

New technology and AI is one of Jo’s key interests. She wrote for the New Statesman about why transparency and ethics should be at the forefront of development:

She highlighted that same facial recognition pilot:

Just last month, a man was fined £90 because he refused to show his face to police trialling new facial recognition software in east London, in a modern-day equivalent of Harry Willcock refusing to show his ID card. As a liberal, I empathise with that man’s attempt to protect himself from a blatant invasion of his privacy, with no consent or understanding how that data would be used.

We are also at risk of imbuing this technology with divine-like abilities to predict the future and assume that it will make better decisions than a lowly human being. The danger is we view AI as a crystal ball that can look into the future. In reality, all it does is reflect the information we feed it. It is more like a mirror that we are holding up to society.

The UK should be at the heart of developing a liberal approach to AI:

And as these technologies transcend national borders, there will be a clash between western, liberal values that centre on individual freedoms and cultures where the collective good is placed above individual rights.

Given how heavily China is investing in AI, that is a battle liberalism stands to lose unless we create a global alliance committed to the ethical application of AI, which protects privacy and other fundamental freedoms and rights. The UK should be at the heart of those efforts and we should be leading by example.

Informed public debate, regulation and the government setting an example are where Jo thinks we need to be going on this:

To succeed, we need to bring the public along with us and we need to join forces with other countries, like Canada and our allies in the European Union, to lead the charge for ethical AI that makes our lives better without sacrificing our liberal values of fairness, privacy and transparency.

Jo’s website is here and you can follow her on Twitter here.


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  • Lorenzo Cherin 11th Jun '19 - 1:13am

    Thanks for putting this,on here, I am a supporter of Jo yet had not seen this one, excellent extract, and she talks the talk and walks the walk here, she knows her thing, increasingly so evident on these issues.

  • Sue Sutherland 11th Jun '19 - 1:03pm

    There seems to be quite a problem with facial recognition because, apparently, it only works properly on white Anglo Saxon men. In other words it reflects the assumptions of the people who designed it. Many years ago when I worked with computers there was a phrase “Garbage in, garbage out” and it appears that facial recognition has fallen foul of this.

  • OnceALibDem 11th Jun '19 - 4:01pm

    Good to see Jo challenging facial recognition. This was something Ed really failed to do when his brief covered it. He has a lot to prove that he will put civil liberties back into the Lib Dem platform (after Vince left it out)

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