Face recognition technology: Where are we and is there a cause for alarm?

The use of facial recognition technology (FRT) has been on a rapid increase. More of this technology continues to be deployed in both public and private spaces. Unfortunately, the expansive use of this technology has been going on without clearly stipulated regulations surrounding its use. As a result, many people have become sceptical about their privacy and security.

While the original intent behind the technology might have been a good one, many people are worried about the possibility of data misuse and non-compliance by institutions that use the FRT.

In this post, we discuss some of the major trends and issues surrounding facial recognition technology.

An overview of the recent trends in facial recognition technology

This technology involves the use of a person’s facial features to identify them from a photograph or a recorded video. The collected features are compared with hundreds of photos to confirm identity.

Facial recognition technology has been embraced by many businesses across the world. As you may have noticed, many have installed surveillance systems in their premises. Various uses cut across fraud prevention and detection, enhanced security as well as access and authentication processes.

With a facial recognition camera in place, companies are shunning traditional access controls. For instance, authorized personnel are now granted access to a premise by just standing in front of a camera which instantly identifies and matches a user to a facial template. This has replaced the traditional method where a security guard had to cross-check work IDs and other documentation.

This technology has become commonplace in residential homes, accommodation facilities, shopping centres and malls, hotels, airports, restaurants, schools and many others. Some business owners use it as a security measure; others use the technology to study the habits of their customers.

By following surveillance footage, a business can be able to understand their clients much better. They can carefully audit the efficacy of their advertising techniques, adjust, or identify areas that need improvement.

On a personal level, this recognition technology is used to unlock smart gadgets such as mobile phones and tablets. You have probably enabled this feature on your device too.

5 major concerns surrounding the use of facial recognition technology

Intrusion on privacy

A security camera does not only identify your physical characteristics, but it also monitors and tracks every step you make. Picture this; you are attending a rally protest that is against some ideologies set by the government. Would you not be concerned that the very government has access to these footage and might later identify who attended which protest and in a worst-case scenario victimize you?

Many people are concerned about the continued use of this technology without transparency. There are scanty details on how data is collected, used and or disposed of whenever there is a need. Ideally, any institution using the FRT (Facial recognition technology) should at least notify you that they are using the technology, state for which purpose and their in-house measures of ensuring that the information is not misused in any way.

Lack of clear privacy policies has caused fears which have seen hundreds rise in a fight against facial recognition in the US. As a result, this move has seen face-scanning by local governments banned in some US towns such as San Francisco.

Inaccuracy problems

Despite being one of the most promising technologies, facial recognition is still in its early stages. As such, some challenges are yet to be addressed. For instance, the accuracy of the identification process is far from perfect.

Cases of mistaken identity are still high especially among women and people of colour. It, therefore, arouses the fear of being suspected or convicted for activities you know nothing about.

Data security challenges

Facial recognition systems collect a lot of personal information which is stored in the databases. Like any other confidential information, this information is prone to data breaches. The data may be sold or accessed by the unauthorized personnel and used for ill intentions.

Take, for instance, stalkers may access your images (even from your social media profiles) and use the FRT to track your real identity and location. This poses a data security challenge.

High prevalence

As already mentioned, there are way too many face-scanning cameras nowadays. The result is that you are leaving your ‘faceprint’ in too many places without even knowing it.

FRT overrides on basic freedoms

Tracking your every move is effortless as long as you are moving in and out of premises fitted with these scanners. Government and private spying agencies can easily track your every move; monitor your activities and everyone you are associating with.

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