Time To Worry About Facial Recognition?
Facial recognition software has been a simmering privacy concern for over a decade. Cameras may be scanning your face and noting your presence, in public places, stores, and even in church! Is it time to start worrying seriously about this Big Brother surveillance technique? Read on for some startling facts...
Is Facial Recognition Going Too Far?
You might not realize it, but cameras are everywhere now. And as facial recognition software gets more sophisticated, it's sharpening the proverbial two-edged sword. Of course we want to be able to identify criminals, but what about the rest of us, simply going about our business?
Consider this: facial recognition systems are being sold to churches, to track members who attend services and other events. Churchix is a "face recognition event attendance application" that can identify attendees via videos and photos.
Facebook has developed sophisticated facial recognition software and applies it to every photo uploaded by its billion-plus members. A new Facebook app, called Moments, even finds photos of you on other people’s mobile devices and shares them among your friends.
Google claims its FaceNet system is the most accurate and comprehensive facial recognition application ever. It not only correctly identified 86% of the faces in a test database of 260 million images, it also correlated information about each individual from Google’s massive dossiers collection. FaceNet is still in the Goog’s labs, but it will be put to real-world use in the not-distant future.
Face First is quietly selling its facial recognition systems to retailers, enabling them to automatically generate alerts when known shoplifters or “litigious shoppers” enter their stores. This application also tells store staff when a “preferred customer” comes in, so they can quickly fawn over him. But it’s still creepy.
Drawing a Line
Recently, a friend told me that he entered a nightclub and the doorman demanded to scan his driver’s license. Why? “The owner wants to know who’s in his building.” He left and won’t be going back. Of course, law enforcement has been quietly using facial recognition technology for many years.
Where do we, the people being recognized and tracked by computers, draw the line? Eighteen months ago, a working group of stakeholders in facial recognition was convened by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), a division of the Commerce Department. Its goal was to hammer out a voluntary code of conduct for commercial users of facial recognition technology that respected consumers’ privacy. It didn’t go so well.
All nine consumer privacy advocate organizations left the group on June 16, 2015. The groups that left included the Center for Democracy & Technology, the Center for Digital Democracy, the Consumer Federation of America, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the American Civil Liberties Union, Consumer Action and Consumer Watchdog.
They walked out because, in their views, the commercial stakeholders adamantly refused to include an “opt-in” protocol in the code of conduct. “Opt-in” means that facial recognition is not permitted unless a person affirmatively agrees to it. The commercial stakeholders, especially Facebook, insisted on an “opt-out” protocol, in which facial recognition is enabled by default and a person must figure out how to refuse it.
The code of conduct is voluntary, so no company is required to adopt it. But those who do must comply with it or face enforcement action from the Federal Trade Commission.
As things stand, only Facebook and its commercial cronies are working on a code of conduct for facial recognition. If the NTIA adopts their idea of what’s fair to consumers, we may all be in trouble. There is no federal law regulating facial recognition or consumer tracking.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 18 Jun 2015
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Time To Worry About Facial Recognition? (Posted: 18 Jun 2015)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved