Gary Marx Examines Technology and Social Control

Gary T. Marx, Professor and EPIC Advisor, and Keith Guzik wrote a fascinating piece in 2016 called, The uncertainty principle: Qualification, contingency and fluidity in technology and social controlIn the paper, they explore the use of technology and social control and how the beneficial uses of technology for the purpose of controlling social behavior may overlook certain variables.

They explore the use of algorithms and surveillance. Algorithms are intended to offer, “the potential of better decision-making on vital economic and planning matters without the error of human actors” or in the case of surveillance, “extend human abilities” like night vision and around the clock monitoring. While it sounds promising, there are areas of uncertainty that may not always work as intended.

They present a case study of Mexico’s public registry of vehicles (REPUVE) to demonstrate the uncertainty principle. The REPUVE was designed for three reasons: (1) to create a centralized federal registry of all cars circulating in the country, including vehicle identification, physical description and owner information; (2) attach an RFID with these details, and (3) to install RFID readers and license plate recognition (LPR) cameras at transit points to verify the status of passing vehicles. The goal was to combat crimes involving automobiles, including car thefts, kidnappings, and drug trafficking.

However, there were issues shortly after the launch with implementation – including privacy, inconsistency with install, etc. thus making it difficult for the surveillance program to achieve its purpose.

EPIC has had similar concerns with surveillance regarding to the Biometric Entry-Exit System used by Custom and Border Patrol.

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