Facial recognition technology is gaining popularity, and not just as a biometric tool to unlock personal devices. Governments were quick to cotton on to the potential benefits of the tech, and have already implemented it in many places. As Vox notes, ‘There’s a good chance if you live in the US that at some point you’ve been watched, scanned, or analyzed by facial recognition technology.’
Touting security reasons, the US has quietly rolled out the technology without fanfare. It’s really only now that rights groups such as Fight for the Future are realizing the extent to which facial recognition violates civil liberties. This isn’t a uniquely American problem either. Across the Atlantic in the United Kingdom, courts have ruled that Police use of live facial recognition cameras does not infringe upon civil rights.
Pros and cons
Proponents of the technology note that increased safety and security is the key benefit, and there have been cases where, thanks to facial recognition, swift justice was served. Airports may be more secure and the technology also means added convenience.
On the other hand, facial recognition is notoriously poor at what researchers call “demographic differentials,” that is, the technology struggles with people of color, women, and minority groups — a bias that should not exist. There’s also the very real potential that law enforcement agencies will abuse the power, they’re certainly not against a little digital snooping as the ongoing NSA scandal proves.
Avoiding facial recognition technology
It might be hard to hide from public facilities that employ this technology unless we resort to covering our faces or simply not going out, but those aren’t viable solutions. What we can do, though, is opt-out of Facebook’s facial recognition algorithm, DeepFace, and be careful how we use the technology with other online tools.
And if we can’t protect our privacy in public life, at least we can in the digital realm. Don’t let governments infringe upon your digital freedoms too, protect your personal data with a VPN download, and maintain your privacy rights.