Raise your hand if you read George Orwell’s 1984 in high school. For those that didn’t, or who need a refresher, 1984 looked at the idea of Big Brother by describing a society where people were constantly being watched. Sounds creepy, right? It should come as no surprise then, that the novel doesn’t end well. Apparently, people like their freedom and don’t want their every action monitored.
Fast forward to 2019 and you may start to see similarities between our society and the one described in Orwell’s novel. With facial recognition technology being used more and more by governments, some are starting to feel as if Big Brother is always around the corner. Does this mean that facial recognition is bad? Maybe.
How Does it Work?
Facial recognition technology is actually pretty simple. Using machine learning, this technology identifies people from videos and photos by comparing facial features with those in a database. Facial recognition will look for notable facial patterns like the distance between your eyes, or the prominence of your chin. These markers are then compared to numerous different faces until the software matches your specific facial features with your identity.
Currently, facial recognition software is being used in many ways. From the Face ID on the iPhone X to airport security. It has also been very useful for law enforcement by helping them to find suspects and solve crimes.
Why Should I Care?
Solving crimes is great! And the ease of unlocking our iPhones with just a glance isn’t too bad either. So, what are the issues with facial recognition technology?
Well for one, the technology has yet to be perfected. To date, facial recognition software has mostly been fed facial data of white men. Therefore, the technology struggles to correctly identify women and people of colour. This has allowed biases, false accusations and discrimination to become a real risk with the use of facial recognition.
Secondly, the data collected by facial recognition technology brings up a whole slew of privacy and ownership issues. We have fought companies like Facebook and Google for gathering and selling our online data without our consent, but what about our facial data? Who will own this data? How do we know they won’t be selling it without our consent? On top of all that, if a hacker were to access all our facial data, a mass of stolen identity crises could happen.
And finally, there is the 1984 issue. Even if the technology can be used for good, are we willing to give up the privacy of all our actions for society’s safety?
For some American cities, the communities have decided that the benefits of facial recognition technology do not outweigh the people’s right to privacy. In the past few months, we have seen San Francisco, Oakland, and Somerville banning the use of this technology by government agencies. These cities believe that citizens have the right to be a part of the discussion when it comes to widespread surveillance and together has decided that facial recognition is more of a threat than a benefit.
To date, no Canadian city has followed in the footsteps of San Fransisco, Oakland or Somerville. However, as the use of the technology grows who knows what city will be next to make the ban.
What do you think? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts on facial recognition technology.
Bechtel, J. (2019, March 19). Two Major Concerns about the Ethics of Facial Recognition in Public Safety. Retrieved from https://www.designworldonline.com/two-major-concerns-about-the-ethics-of-facial-recognition-in-public-safety/
How does facial recognition work? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://us.norton.com/internetsecurity-iot-how-facial-recognition-software-works.html
Metz, R. (2019, July 17). Beyond San Francisco, more cities are saying no to facial recognition. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/17/tech/cities-ban-facial-recognition/index.html