Facial Recognition Technology – When does surveillance become an intrusion?

25 Jun

For a while, facial recognition technology seemed to provide a convenience to our lives. We arrive home to our smart security system and unlock it with ‘a look’. We pick up our smartphones and access all our features with ‘another look’. We gain access to companies, malls and secure environments with merely “a look”, yet we give little thought to how and where the data of ‘the look’ is being stored, or worse yet, sold!

With world-leading brands such as Amazon selling their facial recognition software, the world seems to be holding its breath for disaster to strike.

In fact, in San Francisco, it is not legal for agencies and even police to use facial recognition software and technology. The general consensus among the nay-sayers to the tech is that it needs to be thoroughly investigated and honed before one can be sure of what it can and can’t do.

Blanket Surveillance?

Of course, the companies selling the AI technology simply want to sell their products, and there seems to be a plethora of willing customers ready to buy them. Tech head-honchos are saying that they can use their discretion about who to sell to and who not to sell to. In fact, it was Microsoft who controversially claimed that they had recently refused to sell their software to a US police agency because they believed human rights might be violated with it. This, in direct contrast to a suspected deal with China to develop AI facial analysis for a university run by the military.

One must, however, realise that it’s relatively easy for unscrupulous groups to get the software via other seemingly “above board” companies and individuals – and therein is the risk. One cannot truly keep a product out of the hands of “the wrong people”.

Those who are worried about the intrusion and security risk of such software might argue that being selective isn’t good enough. It should be a “no” to facial recognition for everyone.

Pro-human rights

There’s a risk that facial recognition tech can and will be misused. So why do some of the world’s leading tech gurus have a lack of faith and mistrust in the software and technology? Here’s what we know:

  • It has yet to be established whether the risk of data security theft and breach is something that can be eliminated from the software.
  • Some facial recognition systems have made false identifications in the past.
  • Sometimes, the software is unable to recognise people from certain ethnic groups.
  • This means that people could be incorrectly recognised as illegal immigrants and wrongfully deported.
  • Legal protestors could be targeted and tracked.

The risks would seem to be an intrusion of one’s privacy and rights, but more than that, it could land innocent people in unnecessary trouble.

Many industries, such as the business security sphere, digital payments, criminal identification, advertising, and healthcare, have already embraced biometric facial recognition technology. As an investment in security, facial recognition technology is seemingly one of the most promising technologies. But still, privacy issues will always surround this technology. There is a thin line between national security and invasion of people’s privacy that will undoubtedly be crossed as the tech progresses.

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