The growing level of surveillance used to control access to shelters and social services troubles housing and homeless advocates. In February 2021, tensions came to a head as news of a patent filing by Clearview AI spread. The controversial company claims to have harvested more than 3 billions photos from the web to train a facial-recognition system, and highlighted identifying "homeless people" as a potential use case for the technology. Homeless have been exploited in other ways by AI developers. In 2019, a Google subcontractor targeted homeless people to record facial images without consent as part of an effort to reduce racial bias in the training data for the company's Pixel 4 face unlock system. Randstad, the subcontractor, targeted homeless people offering small cash incentives, who are disproportionately non-white, for "selfies" often without disclosing the nature of their work.
All of this points towards a future where facial recognition technology, indiscriminately wielded in the public realm on the most vulnerable persons who inhabit it, will become a tool for wealth extraction and control with little recourse.