Facial recognition technology can identify a person’s face using a digital image or video as a reference. At the heart of the technology lies a software that compares a face with images stored in a database. That said, it makes sense to first talk about what’s in this database and how it was compiled.
What does a Facial Recognition Database Contain?
First of all, a facial recognition database isn’t merely a collection of photos of people’s faces. It contains the measurements of significant features of each person’s face.
A process called “biometrics” uses around 80 measurable facial features to identify each person’s face. When you have your picture taken (typically for an ID), it gets added to a facial recognition database. The biometrics system then measures your facial geometry for identification. These measurements are stored in the database, along with your photograph.
How Accurate is Facial Recognition?
Facial recognition accuracy depends on the software used, of course. But in general, the technology is quite accurate. In 2018, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) reported that in a database of over 26 million photos, facial recognition software on offer failed in only 0.2% of search attempts. That is not bad at all, and the technology continues to improve.
Who Uses Facial Recognition?
Private companies may require employees to register in a facial recognition database if they use biometrics scanning to grant workers entry into their offices. Some even go the extra mile and require eye or fingerprint scans to access restricted files or systems. Other offices that have security cameras installed can also use facial recognition to identify employees who may be suspected as insider threats. If confidential data, for instance, gets leaked to a competitor, security personnel can go through camera footage to look for the perpetrator.
Government agencies may also make it mandatory for citizens to register in a facial recognition database. In cases where someone is suspected of foul play and goes on the run, it would be easy for law enforcement officers to locate and apprehend them.
What are the Other Uses of Facial Recognition?
This technology has various applications that include but are not limited to the following:
- Many devices and apps (including social media like Facebook) use facial recognition to control access and enhance privacy. People who are not recognized by embedded systems in smartphones, for instance, are thus automatically locked out from them. Facebook and similar platforms, meanwhile, use the technology to let users tag fellow users in photos.
- Border authorities use the technology to confirm if a person is who he or she claims to be.
- Law enforcement agencies tap into national facial recognition databases to compare with crime scene photos and videos with pictures of suspects for identification or confirmation. They also use it to locate missing persons (aided by artificial intelligence [AI]) to identify a person even if his or her face has changed after several years.
- Believe it or not, when combined with deep learning, facial recognition can analyze a patient’s face to determine if he or she is using medication correctly.
Is Facial Recognition Evil?
The technology is neither good nor bad; it is what it is. It was conceived to do a particular job (which it does incredibly well). However, someone who wants to use it for evil purposes can do so. There is certainly growing concern about how facial recognition could be a tool that invades one’s privacy.