When Jillian York, a 36-year-old American activist, was on vacation in February, she received an unexpected text. Her friend Adam Harvey, another activist and researcher, had discovered photos of her in a US government database used to train facial-recognition algorithms and wondered whether she knew about it.

York, who works in Berlin for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights non-profit group, did not. She was stunned to discover that the database contained nearly a dozen images of her, a mixture of photos and YouTube video stills, taken over a period of almost a decade.

When she dug into what


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