Facial recognition technology is growing fast and it is already in widespread use in China and spreading to the rest of the world.
Facial recognition is a software that identifies individuals by doing a facial comparison against millions of records in a database. The software is common in use in police forces and has been used in public transportation services such as railways and airports.
The growth of software technology has set in motion a lot of debate about how ethical it is. Politicians, activists, police forces, and academics have expressed rightful concerns on the impact the technology might have on people’s democratic and human rights.
Facial recognition trends
Facial recognition is increasingly cropping up in various trends such as:
Many might think facial recognition is only in use in border checks or airports, but the technology is in trials in retail facilities for more than just security, but also for things like self-service checkouts, which eliminate the need for cashiers.
Facial recognition is also in use in social media networks, in healthcare, to access certain facilities, criminal investigations, digital marketing, voting, and many more. It is projected to play a major role in mobile banking and commerce for payments and authentication.
Digital banking and E-commerce
Identity authentication in digital services poses a huge threat to security. It is difficult to recognize an individual remotely. For foolproof authentication other than passwords, which can be compromised, biometric authentication, is the way to go. Facial recognition is becoming common online and is one of the ways used for digital transactions to mitigate fraud.
Healthcare systems all over the world are constantly under attack from digital and physical security breaches. Facial recognition technology is one way the health sector is planning to enhance fraud mitigation and improve security. The technology will prevent:
- Health insurance fraud
- Detect diseases
- Track patients’ medication and medical history
- Detect genetic diseases
Pro and cons of facial recognition
In as much as facial recognition, technology has raised concerns about how ethical it is and it has some pros as well as its cons.
Security and safety
Facial recognition technology makes it easier to track criminals. The technology analyzes the feed from public and private CCTV camera footage. The technology also makes it easier to track missing seniors or children. The technology also reduces intrusion for passengers in security checkpoints.
In the future, facial recognition will allow computers to recognize people and objects just as they do humans, making way for better interactions. Computer vision development is important in making technologies such as autonomous vehicles viable.
Non-invasive identity authentication
Using facial recognition, companies can put control measures for accessing facilities such as banking halls and avoiding long lines. One day, systems will verify identities without having to stop people for ID checks.
Government invasion of privacy
Rogue government agents may use facial recognition to get information and sell it to third parties or even use it for their agendas. There have been a lot of concerns about privacy and the fear that we may be headed towards tyrannical governments like the one in George Orwell’s dystopia 1984. In China for example, there are millions of facial recognition cameras everywhere, and China is known to have the most repressive human rights track record.
Individual privacy abuse
Police departments can use facial recognition for tracking criminals using the help of CCTV systems. The downside is that they can also track anyone they want to. The facial recognition systems can analyze billions of images and videos from billions of sources, which include smartphones, CCTV camera footage, social media, etc. Most argue that facial recognition technology is akin to harvesting DNA samples without your knowledge.
Data privacy is another concern raised by facial recognition technology. Facial recognition technology data includes billions of graphics and videos and maps created when the systems make facial scans. The data is stored in various servers that can be accessed via the cloud, and vulnerable to malware and hacking.
How to protect yourself from being spied on
Hide your eyes, nose, and forehead from cameras
If you can, prevent the cameras from any visual of your eyes, nose, and forehead, and mostly the area where they meet as this is the area that facial recognition algorithms used to identify you. If you can, cover it with bangs and if not, wear a wig or use a hoodie, cap, or hat.
Use a VPN
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the best ways to protect yourself from online spying and protect your data. A VPN hides your location and your IP address, as well as encrypting all your communication.
Hide the shape of your lips
Facial recognition systems tend to analyze your lips. If you have a beard or mustache, grow it in such a way that it covers the top of your upper lip. Modify your lips’ shape by the use of lip liner on the lips’ exterior or use concealer on parts of your lips to trick the cameras that the lips are facial skin.
Wear a mask
If it is legal, and where circumstances allow it, wear a mask. For example, during winter, you can wear a balaclava while outside but indoors will raise eyebrows. Clear masks that can block the facial recognition systems might also attract unwanted attention. Printing 3D masks of other people’s faces can work, but it may be illegal to do that, and if legal in your area, they might be a tad uncomfortable and again, attract unwarranted attention.
Modify photos before posting them online
Before posting photos, look for apps that add invisible ‘noise’ to photos. The ‘noise’ is practically invisible to the human eye but makes the photos difficult for the recognition system to use in hitting a match. You can try to vary the different techniques mentioned above to ensure that the different feeds cannot connect the images back to your real identity.
The use of facial recognition systems is becoming more popular, especially with government agencies. Controversies have arisen on the ethical nature of the data collection by police forces and the government. Rogue cops or government agents such as FBI agents can use the data to settle personal vendettas or enrich themselves. Whichever the case, facial recognition technology seems to be going nowhere any time soon. If anything, it is growing and spreading into the retail business, healthcare, etc.