Many people with children will receive $300 per child per month, compliments of the federal government. This government tax money and it has to come from somewhere. 

Actually, there are two sources. First, from those who don’t have children and who pay income taxes. After all, one of the purposes of taxes is as a tool for government to redistribute income. Second, the money is an advance on a future tax credit. If you receive the monthly sum per child, you cannot also claim the full deduction when filing your annual income tax. Some people would rather take the future deduction than the money now.

The good news is that you can go to the IRS web site and tell them that you do not want the cash but would rather take the full deduction on your income taxes.  The bad news is the site is terribly cumbersome and confusing.  You also have to submit to government facial recognition technology through your computer. 

This technology when used by law enforcement is controversial. Some view facial recognition technology as a valuable tool to make our communities safer. It can be used to prevent crime, identify and locate suspects and even find missing people. For example, news reports are that in the wake of the January 6th U.S. Capitol riots, law enforcement used facial recognition technology to match images to identify suspects through social media postings and State driver’s license databases. 

One of the most frequent thefts we experience in Grand Rapids is shoplifting at big box retail stores. Many of those committing these crimes are addicted to illicit drugs and are repeat offenders. Think of how this technology could be used to screen for these repeat offenders when they enter the store. Of course, every customer entering the store would have to be screened. Would this concern you? 

In the above scenario, the facial recognition screening would be done by a private business. Unlike with government, there are few restrictions as to what private businesses can do with data. 

There is also a concern with law enforcement using this technology to do real-time mass surveillance.  This is the indiscriminate scanning of people in public places by law enforcement that can be used to identify suspects. 

Some law enforcement agencies have tried this technology and then voluntarily stopped using it out of concern for privacy and false matches. These include Washington County, Oregon and the Los Angeles Police Department. The technology is not 100% accurate and there is a failure rate. Critics also claim this technology violates due process rights. 

The Grand Rapids Police Department does not use facial recognition technology. Rest assured, however, that sometime in the future a vendor will come knocking on the police station door with a sales pitch.  

All this raises questions about the use of facial recognition technology. “Do the advantages of this new technology outweigh its social cost? Should this technology be available to law enforcement without real public disclosure or oversight? Is this a valuable tool that should be embraced by law enforcement to keep our communities safe or is this big brother surveillance by government going too far?” 

Excuse me for a minute, I have a phone call coming in and I have to use the facial recognition technology built into my cell phone to unlock it.  Food for thought. 

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