Editorial roundup


Facial recognition is “not ready for prime time”, The Lima News, Aug. 17

Facial recognition technology, which is in the very early stages of development, is too undependable and prone to inaccuracy to deploy as a law enforcement tool.

That’s why Ohio Attorney General David Yost did the right thing last week in pressing the “pause button” on its potential use by more than 4,500 Ohio law enforcement officers.

Yost’s decision came after The Washington Post reported that federal law enforcement officials have mined Bureau of Motor Vehicle photo databases nationwide — without the approval of Congress or state legislatures and without the knowledge or consent of millions of drivers with no criminal records.

Also, if there was any belief about facial recognition being ready for prime time, it was erased by a software test conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union. That test saw the mug shots of two dozen members of the California Legislature being identified as matches for criminals, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Up until then, facial recognition technology was being heralded as an important crime-fighting tool. It presented officers with a first step in identifying a possible criminal suspect or wanted person. The officer could take a photograph of the suspect and feed it into a database, which would produce photos with similar parameters.

Yost emphasized Ohio has experienced no misuse of the state’s facial recognition system, but said the state will back off facial recognition testing until officers can be better trained on the use and limitations of the technology. This includes the fact that facial recognition technologies are more likely to wrongly identify people of color, women and young people.

The problems we are now experiencing with facial recognition serve as two reminders:

. While technology certainly has provided police with useful tools to keep communities safe, a society under constant technological surveillance can pose an unprecedented threat to our civil rights. No one wants to be stripped of their dignity by being handcuffed and detained when they’ve done nothing wrong. A case of mistaken identity also can turn into a dangerous situation when a police officer thinks they’re dealing with a wanted or dangerous criminal instead of an innocent citizen.

. If it were not for the media — in this case the Washington Post — we would have never known that not only is our data being used without our knowledge, but the results saw innocent people being investigated and accused of crimes.

Online: https://bit.ly/2Mr65WM

Don’t mix politics with rates, The Toledo Blade, Aug. 18

The Federal Reserve is responsible for independently setting the nation’s monetary policy and it should continue to do so despite President Trump’s urging last week to make a big cut in interest rates for what he believes will help the U.S. economy thrive.

The Fed’s Open Market Committee, which has 12 members, exists in part to set interest rates for banks to borrow money, which usually trickle down to consumer savings and loan rates. The panel raised rates four times last year, in an effort to keep inflation in check, as the economy picked up steam. Last month, it lowered the rate for the first time in more than a decade.

It sliced the rate by a 0.25 percentage point to a range of 2 to 2.25 percent, but Mr Trump now wants a full percentage point reduction, in part to deal with ramifications of his trade war with China. The President has set tariffs on many Chinese imports into the United States, and he has imposed more taxes on the imports to take effect on Dec. 15.

The last two rounds of such taxes first roiled the stock markets and then lifted the markets when some tariffs were delayed for three months. The trade war has many U.S. firms nervous about how much of an increase would occur in the price of consumer goods as a result. China responded by devaluing its currency, the yuan, which essentially reduces the price of its exported goods, making them cheaper in the United States.

The President contends that the Fed interest rate is slowing economic growth in this country, and that a drastic move is needed to jolt the economy into high gear.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, so far, has disagreed, calling for measured approaches. He maintains the Fed is trying to prevent high inflation and any prospect of a recession. When the Fed lowered interest rates repeatedly over the few years following the 2009 Great Recession, it typically did so at 0.25 percentage point at a time, ultimately dropping the rate to virtually zero.

Lowering the rate now, especially in a big way, could devalue the U.S. dollar, which would please the President in that it could counteract the Chinese actions to devalue its currency and could help U.S. companies sell their goods abroad. But such actions by the Fed have potentially dangerous side effects, such as slowing the global economy, and thus should be avoided if possible.

Mr. Powell, picked by Mr. Trump to lead the Fed, has been sharply criticized by the President. Some assert that the Fed lowered the rate at the end of July in response to Mr. Trump’s pressure. Some analysts think one or two more rate reductions could come this year, in response to the impact on the economy of the trade war with China.

The nation’s central bank should be proactive to economic indicators and react as needed, to try to keep the economy on an even keel, and not react to political requests by the nation’s leader.

Online: https://bit.ly/33HNzPr