Facial Recognition Technology


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The Wikipedia describes Facial recognition (FR) as “technology capable of identifying or verifying a person from a digital image or a video frame from a video source”. It is described as a “Biometric Artificial Intelligence based application that can uniquely identify a person by analyzing patterns based on the person’s facial textures and shape”.

Although the FR technology has been around for a while, it has attracted National headlines recently. Facebook is reported to be using FR technology known as DeepFace to photo-tagging feature that recognizes users faces and has been subject of many lawsuits for privacy violations.

FR Use in Security Services

Government & non-governmental security services in the UK, United States, China, Netherlands are reported to be using FR technology. The government of China is reported to be using it for “total surveillance” since 2017. In US, FR is reported be being used by FBI (against criminal databases) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to sift State driver’s license records.

A CEO’s Call For Regulation

In an Financial Times Op-Ed article Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google writes that “companies cannot just build new technology and let market forces decide how it will be used” and asks Government to develop artificial intelligence regulation.

There are real concerns about the potential negative consequences of AI, from deepfakes to nefarious uses of facial recognition. .. there is no question in my mind that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated. It is too important not to.

Google CEO Sundar Pachai on Financial Times

Clearview AI

In a recent The New York Times article The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It, technology reporter Kashmir Hill details how a little-known start-up Clearview AI “helps law enforcement match photos of unknown people to their online images”. In the article details that how Clearview AI secretly “devised a groundbreaking facial recognition app where a person can upload a picture and get to see public photos of that person, along with links to where those photos appeared. The system — whose backbone is a database of more than three billion images that Clearview claims to have scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites — goes far beyond anything ever constructed by the United States government or Silicon Valley giants.”

Call to Ban Facial Recognition

In The New York Times Op-Ed article What Happens When Employers Can Read Your Facial Expressions?, Woodrow Hartzog, Professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University, Boston calls for banning FR technology in the US.

We’ve relied on industry efforts to self-police and not embrace such a risky technology, but now those dams are breaking because there is so much money on the table. I don’t see a future where we harness the benefits of face recognition technology without the crippling abuse of the surveillance that comes with it. The only way to stop it is to ban it.

Woodrow Hartzog, Professor of Law & Computer Science

FR Can Be Fooled

In a report in The Verge it is reported that “researchers fooled Chinese facial recognition terminals with just a mask” suggesting that the technology is not perfect as ” has been promised secured and trustworthy”.

As the Times headline reads FR technology might “end privacy as we know it“, we consumer must remain vigilant about emerging new technologies and make digitally-informed decisions while using digital technology in our personal life.

Cover photo: screenshot from Financial Times