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It's time to face the ugly reality of face recognition

Mike Elgan | March 20, 2017
The use of A.I. to recognise faces is growing fast. Here's why you should be worried about your personal privacy

Just to be clear, it's not labeling specific photos as you. It's informing Google's A.I. that any or all the pictures of you are you, and so additional pictures will also get your name associated with them.

The same thing happens on Facebook. Users tag selfies and other photos, and tag their family and friends. This informs Facebook's industry-leading A.I. who's who. You'll notice that when you upload a picture of yourself, Facebook usually knows it's you.

Again, these are just available examples that are instantly accessible.

The truth is that your face is being constantly photographed for face recognition databases, and your face will be increasingly used for identification behind the scenes without your knowledge or permission.

Suddenly face recognition is everywhere

Rumors abound that best-selling smartphone lines will soon feature face recognition as their primary security scheme.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+, which are expected to launch later this month, are rumored to include face recognition as part of their security systems. Face recognition could be used to unlock phones, verify Samsung Pay purchases, or both.

Other rumors suggest that Apple's upcoming iPhone 8 will also have face recognition. This outcome is less likely than the Samsung rumor. But Apple does have multiple patents for face recognition technology, including patents for using face recognition specifically for unlocking an iPhone.

A startup called Blue Line Technology offers face recognition for store security, and the technology is already being tested in several stores in Missouri, where the startup is located. It works by running face recognition on everyone coming toward the front door. If someone is wearing a mask, or if a recognized person is in the store's database as a known shoplifter, the doors won't open.

Airports in Japan, France, Canada, Australia and elsewhere are increasingly deploying face recognition systems. Most current programs hope to process all passengers at security checkpoints within the next few years.

Uber uses real-time face recognition in China and India. Drivers must scan their face before accepting any ride to verify that they aren't imposters or criminals looking to pick up unsuspecting passengers.

Cruise ships are embracing face recognition technology, too; it enables passengers to make purchases without carrying credit cards.

And U.S. states are increasingly using face recognition for driver's licenses and IDs. One inevitable outcome is that when a suspect claims to have no identification, a quick face photo will suffice.

In short, face recognition is going mainstream. The public is being led down a path where everybody accepts face recognition scanning as a normal part of everyday life.


You can foil face recognition (but you probably won't)


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