Opinion lines form over facial recognition at airports
Facial recognition – the ability for a computer to break down a photo into a series of digital points and match this against a database – is a hot topic around the in the America, China, and even privacy-sensitive Europe. It’s an open question how much people are accept this technology — or if they will even be given a choice about it.
Apart from China, where facial recognition software is used by the government to keep taps on ethnic minorities in some regions or in the US, where some New York apartments are trying to replace keys with this technology, the question is still out there – will this make my life quicker and more convenient?
Come fly with me
A survey by reservation.com, an online booking and reservation startup, looked at just this question from the perspective of the air traveler: Do they like this idea or not? They found that the consumer response to this was sharply divided. 42.6% of those surveyed approve of the use of facial recognition technology to improve security and boarding speed. Only one in three Americans (32.5%) disagreed with the government using this technology for this purpose, while one-quarter of Americans (24.8%) were more ambivalent, neither agreeing nor disagreeing.
Reasons with a human face
The trick to getting this approval rating is in the stated purpose – improve security and boarding speed. What is there not to like about this? Once could also assume that this use of facial recognition software would be used just for airport travel purposes – not to give the authorities a detailed view of your travel activities, just whom you could be travelling with, and possibly shared with other government agencies?
Those pesky variations in humanity
Ethnicity is a major stumbling block for facial recognition. Not only is this technology being used to target/monitor/control China’s Uighur minority, it’s accuracy can vary wildly between various ethnic groups. According to Reservation, ID errors for white males were down to around 1% while the soaring up to 35% for darker-skinned females.
It may not be your choice anymore
You almost certainly do not have the ability to completely opt out of facial recognition systems. The genie may have already been left out of the bottle. And just this week, it was announced that the US FBI already has access to 641 million pictures to used for its facial recognition projects – that’s about two pictures for every American. As Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) said his opening statement as the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. “There are real concerns about the risks this technology poses to our civil rights and liberties and our right to privacy.”