Facial recognition software is a biometric software that can uniquely identify, recognize, and authenticate an individual by comparing key facial features. Facial Recognition Technology (FRT) can be used to identify a person based on just a photo or a video of their face, which significantly improves the power of surveillance. It can be applied to everything from animation to marketing, but the most controversial use of facial recognition technology involves mass surveillance.
Facial recognition apps identifies a person by comparing selected characteristics of their face to photos or videos within a database. Due to its benefits over traditional surveillance technologies, facial recognition has been gaining prominence in recent years. Led by early adopters such as the United States and China, governments across the world have been investing significant resources in FRT. It is also used widely in mobile phones, social media, airports, venues, and marketing.
Facial recognition has potential benefits in many industries. For instance, the tech seems to be useful in curbing insecurity and by helping law enforcement officers track and arrest criminals. FRT has also helped make our lives more convenient. However, there are many concerns about the use of facial recognition technology among the public. Why is facial recognition technology so controversial? Here are some of the main reasons for concern when it comes to the use of facial recognition technology.
Lack of federal regulation
One of the major causes of worry among citizens when it comes to facial recognition is the general lack of regulation surrounding the use of this technology. In recent years, FRT has become a favorite tool for law enforcement. Government agencies such as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection, and the FBI have compiled vast databases of individuals both within and without the United States
At the moment, the Department of Homeland Security has a database containing more than 250 million people. The FBI can run a facial recognition search for any of the 640 million individuals in the agency’s database. This is despite the fact that there is no regulation on how these government agencies can use this technology. The lack of federal regulation in the use of facial recognition technology is a threat to our right to privacy.
Another major concern regarding the use of facial recognition technology, still in its nascent stages, is that it can be inaccurate. Yes, facial recognition technology is not perfect. The software makes mistakes, which can be costly in some instances.
FRT tends to give false positives and false negatives, especially when noisy images obtained from old CCTV footage are used. Multiple studies have shown that this technology is inaccurate when it comes to identifying people of color, especially African American women.
Seeing as how many police departments in the United States have started using the technology, the lack of accuracy and accountability in FRT is a huge problem. Facial recognition technology can cause real harm when used to arrest and convict individuals on a possibly faulty basis.
In general, this technology has been found to inaccurately identify people with darker skin. The fact that errors are not evenly distributed makes the situation even worse.
Privacy and data security are some of the major issues when it comes to the use of facial recognition technology. It’s one thing for the government to collect and store all that biometric information on its citizens, but what happens when the data falls into the wrong hands?
The technology is not immune to hacking. Databases can be compromised by hackers, and it has been done before. Just last year, personal data harvested by US Customs and Border Patrol was stolen by hackers.
Apparently, the US Customs and Border Patrol collects a lot of data using cameras and video recordings at the arrival terminals of international airports. The CPB also captures and stores vehicle license plates at land border crossings. This kind of information can be dangerous in the hands of a hacker.
As stated earlier in the article, facial recognition technology enhances the power of surveillance significantly. Unlike other biometric technologies, facial recognition can be used in a manner that doesn’t necessitate the participation, consent, or even the knowledge of the subject. The fact that this technology can be used for general surveillance without the knowledge of the public is where the real danger lies. Many are concerned that the use of this technology by government agencies is tantamount to the violation of the right to privacy.
Impacts of facial recognition tech around the world
The negative effects of the use of facial recognition technology have been observed in the United Kingdom, Singapore, China, and other parts of the world where the use of FRT is prevalent. In the United States, the amount of biometric data collected by government agencies such as the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and CBP is massive. The scary part is that these government agencies have been known to share this information amongst each other.
The sharing of data amongst these government agencies such as the FBI, DHS, and ICE — and between law enforcement groups at state and local levels — creates surveillance capabilities that raise concerns among the public. These law enforcement groups can easily abuse facial recognition technology for mass surveillance of the public.
In May 2019, San Francisco became the first major city to ban the use of facial recognition by law enforcement and other government agencies to prevent mass surveillance.
When it comes to the use of facial recognition technology in the US, there are two main concerns. First, some people fear that the technology (which is still in its infancy) may not work well enough. Facial recognition technology has proven inaccurate in multiple instances.
Second, there’s the concern that this technology may work too well and contribute to the erosion of privacy. Both concerns are valid. The industry can address these concerns by facilitating the creation of new, more accurate versions of FRT software and pushing for legislation that protects the privacy of the public against facial recognition technology.