Is Facial Recognition The Next Privacy Battleground?

Posted on 02-17-2015 by
Tags: Privacy , Latest Headlines & Stories

Privacy; we all like it; we all want it, but how much do we actually have? In this technological world, cameras are everywhere. From street corners and stoplights to computers and phones, we can be seen almost everywhere. According to Fast Company , Apple’s iBeacon facial recognition has “matured” to the point where it can let stores use cameras to link customers' faces to information stored in databases.

FaceFirst, a Los Angeles-based company that sells facial recognition systems, has clients in a variety of backgrounds, but those clients in retail mainly use the company's biometric analytics to track known shoplifters. For its facial recognition software to work, the software requires a minimum of one megapixel of resolution. This software however is not restricted to fixed cameras. In fact, it’s designed to work on smartphones as well.

Many may question whether we are ready for technology with such power, but here are some other things to consider:

How Does It Work?

FaceFirst has a camera take a photo of a person's face and analyzes it on a 128-by-128-point (for a total of 16,384 reference points) facial overlay grid. It then compares it to faces in a database. The client chooses the database, which can be any size, but the larger the database, the more processing power it'll take to get a timely comparison result.

The facial recognition algorithm marks those grid reference points on-site, sending only biometric data to the database comparison engine, which results in saving bandwidth.

This speed and mobile access allows retail businesses to catch suspicious parties quickly. FaceFirst isn’t just used by clients looking to bolster loss prevention, the company has a custom mobile app made for law enforcement and have sold their services to 71 police agencies. Among their clients, the largest police agency database boasts a hefty 8 million entries.

Will Retail Keep Our Data Private?

Despite the up rise of concern regarding technology-related privacy violations, America is one of the few developed nations without a universal or federal privacy law in place to govern how data is collected and shared. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been concerned recently about data collection in the retail sphere. Jennifer Lynch, legal counsel for the EFF, believes that the way companies share data along with data leakage should serve as a cause for concern.

"Facial recognition, like any biometric, is unique to an individual—like a Social Security number or driver's license or credit card number, it can't be changed. So if there's ever a security breach, it could really impact an individual more than we have seen in the recent Home Depot and Target data leaks,” Lynch said. "It impacts the fundamental values of being able to participate in society anonymously."


What About Consent?

Lynch says without a broad federal or universal law, there's no way to regulate against this collection and selling of data. It comes down to the semantics of consent—and Lynch thinks even something like a notification sign at business entrances might count as consent in court.

One place where customers already knowingly consent to facial recognition can be found at casinos.

"Facial recognition is used pretty the gaming industry, not only to track card counters but to recognize big spenders," Lynch says. "For those people who find it helpful to be greeted and handed their favorite drink, it might be what they're looking for."

While it has been found useful in casinos, one place it has not been used at is (surprisingly) at airports as almost no U.S. airports use facial recognition technology.

It’s obvious that Facial recognition technology has advanced, but if privacy advocates and businesses don't come to an agreement on what precautions should be taken by all that store personal data—and the government doesn't step in—a future leak, relative to the size Target experienced, could spill biometric-linked data that could prove to be more personal and much harder to recover and that is not something we want to experience.

What are your thoughts? Do you think facial recognition will be the next privacy battleground?


Posted on : 16 Jun 2015 6:19 AM

Facial Recognition is not the same as Finger Prints, but faces are easier to access and analyse as compared to fingers. The exclusivity is missing in Facial Recognition, but it's a system used in the corporate world for many years now. It may become a big thing, but probably not as huge as fingerprints biometrics.

Your comment has been posted.   Close
Thank you, your comment requires moderation so it may take a while to appear.   Close