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2022-05-11

Facial Recognition Software: the Good and the Bad

Thoughts, Perspective, and Recommendations from IDSeal’s CEO, Eran Sinai

In general, facial recognition is one of the most sacred forms of PII (personally identifiable information.) Like any other form of PII, its intended use and safety will depend on the vendor providing the technology and how it protects that intel. 

Key Points related to Facial Recognition:  

  • Almost two years ago, Amazon, Microsoft and IBM announced they’d halt the sale of facial recognition software to police departments and called for federal regulation of the technology. 
  • To date, Congress has not passed any laws regulating police use of facial recognition.
  • Privacy and civil liberties advocates said the moratoria are a promising first step, but they remain concerned that some tech companies continue to profit from surveillance tools used by police. ¹

I come from a country where there is often a need to use facial recognition, as it has proven to be essential to the safety of the citizens. Combining that with my personal experience in the cyber environment (in general) and identity theft area (specifically), I understand the issue and the sensitivities surrounding it. 

My concerns are the utilization of the feature by companies for profit purposes and collecting our citizens information without permission.  

My Personal Experience with Facial Recognition:  

I have experienced a very concerning issue with “Ring”, one of said companies being talked about as connecting with hundreds of police stations and providing our facial imprints. 

I tried to un-install Ring and disconnect it from Alexa. To my astonishment, I couldn’t separate the two! I called Ring support and was told that there was a “glitch” in the system and even when disconnecting the account, they would not be able to remove my information from the system. Hence, where the problem begins.  

Not to mention technological issues where the technology itself is far from perfect with detrimental shortcomings. Studies have proven that women or people with brown or black skin are more often being mistakenly identified by these systems. ²  

As you can see, there are pros and cons to the issue, however, I feel that like in any other field in technology, we cannot stop time. We cannot stay behind. With every good there is bad, or uncomfortableness. 

If we do not stay ahead, we will fall behind. I believe that balancing the privacy and public safety is key. Could technology be abused? Absolutely! But, in my opinion, if we don’t take control of it, allowing proper usage, while having Congress step up and help create and enforce control, we will regret it. The technology will not only fall into the wrong hands, but we will lose control of it. Burying our heads in the sand as we fight to disallow it is a losing battle. 

Suggestions for the Use of Facial Recognition: 

In summary, Facial Recognition is the ultimate technology and can raise concern for individuals but also save their lives. To move forward using this PII feature and help limit any potential abuse of this technology, this is what I would recommend: 

  • Control the usage of it & pass appropriate bills 
    •  i.e. New Hampshire introduced HB499 – usage of facial recognition to help find missing senior, a potential victim of child sexual abuse, usage of facial recognition by law enforcement with a search warrant, etc. This bill was passed/adopted with amendment by the House, but killed due to the Senate being Inexpedient to Legislate. ³⁴
  • Create and enforce limitation on usage of the features, and sale of its data by for-profit companies. 
  • Limit how long data can be stored 
  • Control and restrict sharing of data 
  • Alert the public and provide clear notification to the public 
  • Set standards of accuracy and set technical standards and specify if certain product standards are up to par  
  • Implement unbiased, third-party assessment of facial recognition services 
  • Minimize the amount of information that can be collected
  • Improve accuracy of facial recognition by proper testing of all population  

In summary facial recognition is the ultimate PII technology, and use of it should not be avoided but rather monitored and regulated. While it can raise concern for individuals, it could also save their lives. My advice? Proceed with caution.  

¹ Feiner, L., & Palmer, A. (2021, June 14). Rules around facial recognition and policing remain blurry. Retrieved May 10, 2022, from https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/12/a-year-later-tech-companies-calls-to-regulate-facial-recognition-met-with-little-progress.html

² Findley, B., & Belamoroso, M. (2020, November 03). Why Racial Bias is Prevalent in Facial Recognition Technology. Retrieved May 11, 2022, from https://jolt.law.harvard.edu/digest/why-racial-bias-is-prevalent-in-facial-recognition-technology

³ https://legiscan.com/NH/bill/HB499/2021

⁴  Citizen Count (2021, May 08). Should the state be prohibited… Retrieved May 11, 2022, from https://www.citizenscount.org/news/should-state-be-prohibited-using-facial-recognition-technology-without-search-warrant

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