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Security & privacy

Take this quiz to see which government agencies have your photo on file

Facial recognition is everywhere, even if you don’t always realize it. Your phone uses a map of your face to unlock itself, and you might even use a facial scan for contactless payments. Either way, somebody out there has access to your face. The only question is, who?

In most cases, if you’re using your device for face scanning, tech companies are the ones using your mug. But that hasn’t stopped the government from working with Silicon Valley to compile an extensive library of faces. Tap or click for details on a facial recognition app with connections to law enforcement.

We don’t always know what the government has up its sleeve in terms of surveillance, and advancements in facial recognition tech only add to our anxiety. If you’ve been curious to know which government agencies have access to your face, this quiz by the Electronic Frontier Foundation might shed some light.

Creepy quiz shows you how Uncle Sam is memorizing your face

Photos are the backbone of all facial recognition software on the market. Without your photo, these programs can’t match your name to your face or discern your identity from others.

That’s why government agencies and tech companies having photos of your face can seem like an invasion of privacy. Anywhere your face is posted, there is potential for that photo to be harnessed in a face-scanning database and used to identify you.

The government is an especially scary candidate since it controls law enforcement and surveillance. But which government agencies have access to your photos?

If you’ve been issued a driver’s license, you already know the DMV has your face saved somewhere. But how deep does the rabbit hole go? Does the DMV share your photos with other government agencies? Tap or click here to see how millions of license photos are used in a database.

To help people understand just how far their face has traveled, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has put together a spooky quiz that will show you which government agencies have access to your photos.

Upon booting the quiz, you’ll be asked various questions about what sort of documents you’ve provided to government agencies. Examples include driver’s licenses, passports and TSA pre-screening programs. You’ll also be asked about the relative population of the city you live in, as well as your current state of residence.

Once the quiz is complete, you’ll be given a preview of government agencies with access to your photos, and a chance to read more about how they might use your face.

It’s illuminating to see just how many agencies have access. Even simple, mandatory tasks like applying for a license or government job are enough to get your face on a list. It begs the question, just how many faces does the government have access to?

I don’t want the feds to access my face! What can I do?

Unfortunately, many avenues that government agencies use to collect facial data are unavoidable. Things like driver’s licenses and passports are required by law to drive and travel respectively. The same goes for government job applications, which require all candidates to submit a photo for identification purposes.

But with tech companies, you have far more freedom over what they can access. If you choose not to post photos of your face everywhere and instead use anonymizing photos like your pets or cartoon characters, you can enjoy socializing online without risking your privacy. Tap or click here to see the best ways to delete your data from the web.

There’s also an unusual trend happening that’s thwarting facial recognition efforts significantly: face masks. In light of COVID-19, the CDC and other agencies are recommending people covering their faces to protect themselves from viral exposure. Tap or click to see which kind of mask is right for you.

This might seem contradictory, but the government would rather have you alive and contributing to the economy than vulnerable to a virus and easy to spy on. For the time being, you might not have to worry about your face being scanned as much as usual.

Thank goodness retinal scanners aren’t as prevalent… for now.

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