According to research, the facial recognition market is expected to grow from $3.2 billion in 2019 to a whopping $7.0 billion by 2024. This technology is mostly used in health monitoring, airports, building security, and marketing and retail. Also, law enforcement agencies are beginning to use technology in their investigative leads. Currently, facial recognition is used to unlock phones and access e-wallets for digital payments; some hotels use the technology to greet their guests and simplify check-ins.
But, despite its potential and benefits, this technology comes with a host of problems. As its application increases, there are gaps and problems that need to be addressed immediately. Otherwise, the possibility of misuse is very high.
Here are some of the problems that come with facial recognition technology:
Lack of reliability: While facial recognition technology promises total accuracy, several studies have shown how the algorithms built on racially-biased facts misidentify people of color, especially black women. This weakness raises the question of racial bias and neutrality.
Right to consent: Facial recognition works in a way that denies people the right to consent to the recording, analyzing, and saving of their images in databases. This means we have no choice and control over how our own images are used.
Quality and accuracy of the database: Poor photo quality may lead to altered and edited photos being added to the database, eventually leading to distorted matches and results.
Lack of federal regulation: Lack of clear laws and regulations around this technology may lead to opportunities for misapplication. For instance, the technology is already being used by the Chinese government to apprehend jaywalkers and other petty offenders, and this is causing debate amongst what is treated as fundamental civil rights and privacy concerns vs protecting the public.
False positives and false negatives: There have been incidences of incorrect flagging of subjects when using this technology, leading to unlawful arrests. That is what we call false positives. False negatives, on the other hand, happen when the technology fails to identify a match despite existing documentation in the database.
Right to privacy: We all have the right to privacy, even in public spaces; which allows us to express ourselves without the unwelcome intrusion from government or private entities. Facial recognition takes away that right through its indiscriminate and large-scale recording, analyzing, and saving of our images.
These flaws have led to a recent upsurge in the opposition against facial recognition in the US. The good news is that these concerns have not been ignored as different cities have started to generate legislation around these issues. For instance, California cities, including Oakland and San Francisco have outlawed certain uses of the technology for city agents including law enforcement. New Hampshire and Oregon have now banned the use of this technology in body cameras for law enforcement officers.
Certainly, facial recognition technology is bound to change the way we go about our lives. But, there is a need to understand and put in place the mechanism to regulate this innovative technology. However, these flaws can have a negative and irreversible effect on people’s lives.
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