Did we fall asleep and wake up in George Orwell's 1984? Face recognition software is everywhere. Even your event.
Face recognition is a double edged sword. Like fingerprints, your face is unique, which makes it a really handy thing to have in any software that needs to identify people. A good example of this is starting to appear at airports, where facial recognition software is being used to speed people through immigration control. That same technology can also be used to check attendees into events by checking their likeness against a database of images.
The trouble with face recognition software is that unlike fingerprints, your face can be read from a distance and without you knowing. UK music fans were rudely awakened to this fact when facial recognition software was used on crowds at Download music festival. The cameras and software were installed by local police to help them identify potential troublemakers in the crowd. When used in conjunction with camera drones, which have become the norm for monitoring crowds, facial recognition is impossible to escape. With the ever-present threat of terror at events, many would agree that this is a good use of the technology. However, in this case, it was done without consent and if it weren’t for the press discovering it, it would have been a complete secret. Very, very naughty.
Face Recognition in Social Media
Facial recognition can be very useful in social media, as demonstrated by Facebook’s Moments application. The software identifies people in photos and if they have a Facebook account connected to yours, it’ll suggest tags accordingly. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is raising a few privacy issues and lawyers are having a field day. In some countries, face recognition is disabled for this reason.
Of course, it’s possible to opt out of using the technology but that doesn’t mean it won’t recognise you in someone else’s photo. Like it or not, behind the scenes, you are being identified and like it or not, that data isn’t just going to go away.
As is the norm for technology, face recognition software is becoming more accessible. While the really good stuff is currently behind doors and in the safe hands of our “trusted” gatekeepers, that’s not always going to be the case. It will soon be available for anyone to use and the cost of implementing will come down too. What that means is that anyone with access to the technology could use it wherever they want. That means it could be applied to any photo or video, online or offline. Sorry to say this but your face is now just another piece of metadata.
Face recognition software is advancing very quickly and like most technologies, it’s at a pace that the law can’t keep up with. Privacy is a real issue, regardless of how useful the technology is. It could help to protect your attendees from terror attacks but it could also raise serious privacy issues for them. For now, we must tread carefully.