Why Face Surveillance Renders Trans and Non-Binary Individuals Invisible

Why Face Surveillance Renders Trans and Non-Binary Individuals Invisible

Face surveillance is a fairly recent technology. The government uses this to identify or track people. But surveys have shown that they misidentify most non-binary and trans people. And this is a serious issue since it affects how official information is documented and used for citizens.

Presently, Advocate reports that face surveillance technology is completely unregulated in the United States. But the cops and other governmental agencies are able to access and use it, even if it is in secrecy. And is true that face recognition does not always work. And the inaccuracies strongly affects “certain groups of people, namely Black women and trans and nonbinary people.”

Riot Riot Riot!

Many cities across the USA have begun to ban the technology. Many civilian organisations have decided to partake in the movement and force out the usage of face surveillance technology. Municipalities and states have woken up and are paying heed to the issues as well. Since it is supported by empirical evidence, arguing against it has been proven easier.

According to Advocate, Joy Buolamwini, a researcher from Massachusetts conducted a study. The results of which show “significant racial and gender bias in facial recognition algorithms.” It was also found that Black women’s faces get misclassified around 35% of the time. Not so surprisingly, they work almost perfectly while recognizing white men’s faces. Face Surveillance Renders Trans and Non-Binary Individuals Invisible
Image Courtesy: ACLU of Northern California

And it only gets worse for the Transgender and Non-binary people.

Face Surveillance does not accommodate for nonbinary and transgender people. This disparity can jeopardise official identities and misclassify people in the community. The studies have also shown that face recognition products sold by Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft still haven’t caught up to inclusivity.

The problem of Face Surveillance in itself is that it has to divide people interacting with it into men and women. This placement of gender binary in technology makes gender identity rigid and eternal-like. To add to this, a male or a female is expected to look a certain way. Systems sort short hair into the male category while makeup into the female category. As Advocate explains, “These outcomes reflect choices made by computer programmers about which images they will use to train algorithms as well as how those training data are classified.”

So, we just need better algorithms, correct?

The Cis Perks

The face recognition technology can only accurately guess the cisgender men and women, reveals a recent study. The accuracy is more 97 percent. 97.6 percent for Cisgender men and 98.3 percent for Cisgender women. But the technology struggles to classify non-binary genders. Here’s an example that asserts why it is so vital.

“A report in 2018 stated that some transgender individuals who drove for Uber had their accounts suspended because the company uses face recognition software as a built-in security feature, and the software was unable to recognize the faces of individuals who were transitioning.”


The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition is now joining forces to ask the Massachusetts state legislature to hold the government’s use of face surveillance.


Not Invisible

After these many fights and protests, it is pretty ridiculous to have a technological barrier that fails to identify people as they want to be identified. Anyone who does not fit into the binary understanding of gender will obviously face troubles. Thus, the transgender and non-binary folks who will most likely be misgendered will also become invisible in the government’s recognition system.

And that’s not something a community that is suffering from homelessness and incarceration really needs. The government should not have the power to tell someone has misidentified themselves based on a face recognition software.

The LGBT+ community already experiences a higher suicide rate and mental health issues. The colored individuals from the LGBT+community have it worse. And the face surveillance technology only reimposes notions that the community has been fighting for years. Face Surveillance Renders Trans and Non-Binary Individuals Invisible
Image Courtesy: Unsplash

Political Presence

Political presence and official recognition are important to every citizen. If government services, policing or border controls have to use technology, the software has to be well-rounded. It cannot afford to exclude people, especially if it is based on appearance. There has to be an upgrade in regulation and monitoring.

Fortunately, several cities across America have realised this and are working towards getting rid of the technological barrier of identification. Surveillance is crucial to the security and safety planning of any country. But if that means misclassifying and misidentifying people, then it defeats the purpose.

The problems of misclassification and misidentification are, as evidence shows, not purely theoretical. The problems practicalise and affect people in their everyday activities. And since the LGBT+ community has already seen its share of trauma, this is just another restriction from equality. A government-supported restriction.



<a href=””>Directory Website Promote</a>

Leave a Comment