The Use and Misuse of Facial Recognition Technology
Mon, April 19, 2021

The Use and Misuse of Facial Recognition Technology

In the past few years, facial recognition systems have become popular in airports, shopping centers, public venues, and in law enforcement, said Nicole Martin of business news Forbes / Photo by: metamorworks via Shutterstock


In the past few years, facial recognition systems have become popular in airports, shopping centers, public venues, and in law enforcement, said Nicole Martin of business news Forbes. Ravi Raj of Passage AI said, “Increasingly, we’ve seen leaks of sensitive private information including credit card numbers, passwords, and social security numbers through data hacks, often resulting in identity theft,” as quoted by Mike Monocello of DevPro Journal, a website dedicated to publishing content for software developers. 

For Raj, facial recognition software can bolster the security of sensitive accounts by requiring a person to have a biometric scan—rather than inputting a password—before they can access their account. Indeed, there are potential benefits in using facial recognition tech to prevent and solve crimes. But there are concerns about the privacy, safety, and legislation of using facial recognition technology.


How Does Facial Recognition Work? 

Facial recognition utilizes a database of photos like mug shots and a driver’s license to identify individuals in security photos and videos. This tech utilizes biometrics to map your facial features, verifying your identity through key features of your face. The most key feature of facial recognition is your face’s geometry such as the distance between your eyes and the distance from your forehead to your chin. Then, the software creates a “facial signature,” a mathematical formula that is compared to a database of known faces. 

This is achieved using machine learning, an AI technique, explained Zhaki Abdullah of Singapore-based news channel Channel News Asia (CNA). Steven Wong, president of the Association of Information Security Professionals stated, “Given the recent advances in facial recognition algorithms, recognition accuracy is getting much better and thus leading to the wider adoption of the technology.”

However, if facial recognition is used as a security measure, it “does not have the high accuracy of fingerprints or iris scans.” It also does not involve any physical contact, unlike fingerprint recognition. Moreover, facial recognition can be a cheaper option than iris scans because normal cameras can be used for facial recognition, said Wong. 

Facial recognition utilizes a database of photos like mug shots and a driver’s license to identify individuals in security photos and videos / Photo by: Artem Oleshko via Shutterstock


The Facial Recognition Market 

Did you know that the facial recognition market is growing exponentially? According to the Facial Recognition Market report published by market research company Markets and Markets, the facial recognition industry is projected to grow $3.2 billion in 2019 and $7.0 billion by 2024 in the US. This technology will be primarily used for surveillance and marketing. However, this makes people concerned about facial recognition tech. 

Challenges Involving the Use of Facial Recognition

The lack of federal regulations surrounding the use of facial recognition sparks concerns among citizens. Many are worried about the technology’s accuracy and if there are biases and misinformation in using facial recognition software. For instance, it has been proven that facial technology is inaccurate at identifying people of color. Another concern is using it for law enforcement purposes. Currently, many police departments in the US, including Detroit, Chicago, Orlando, and New York City, have started to use facial recognition technology. Per a May 2018 report, the FBI has access to 412 million facial images for searches. 

This can lead to authorities misidentifying someone and leading to wrongful convictions. Further, it can also jeopardize our society as facial recognition can be abused by law enforcement by constantly watching the public. To illustrate, the Chinese government is already using this technology to arrest jaywalkers and other petty crime perpetrators. This can ignite debate on what is considered basic civil rights and privacy issues versus safeguarding the public from crimes. If facial recognition is used in the justice system, accountability and accuracy are essential when employing this technology. 

In the United States, Oregon and New Hampshire have prohibited the use of facial recognition in body cameras for police officers. Cities in California, such as San Francisco and Oakland and some cities in Massachusetts, outlawed certain uses of facial recognition technology for city and law enforcement officials. 

Further, the Utah Department of Public Safety has imposed bans on using facial recognition software for active criminal cases. Law enforcement in the state claimed that the technology keeps dangerous criminals off the streets. But advocates argued that there are no checks and balances involved in the system. Oregon and Portland are soon to follow suit. 

The problem with facial recognition technology transcends law enforcement. US Customers collaborated with Delta to implement facial scanning at Atlanta airport’s Concourse E, its Detroit hub, and boarding gates in Salt Lake City and Minneapolis. This month, the same technology will be deployed at the Los Angeles International Airport. The use of this technology sparks concerns on whether hackers can access data or how much people are being watched.

More Challenges Ahead

Cities in the US will face more ethical dilemmas as they attempt to tackle security and privacy issues. From the above-mentioned statistics, AI and facial recognition technology are growing and can be powerful and useful tools when used appropriately. 

Overall, countries that decide to implement facial recognition in airports, law enforcement, or elsewhere need to balance privacy and security. The technology is admittedly not perfect and it may be just one part of the solution to a country’s problem. Facial recognition can be misused, and it is up to citizens to ensure that it is used to bolster their safety