The Two-Face Coin of Facial Recognition

Facial Recognition is one of technology's most controversial topics. While many among us see it as a great tool with countless benefits, others are more skeptical and concerned about its flaws. According to NortonLifeLock Inc. – a global leader in consumer cyber safety – facial recognition is a way of recognizing a human face using biometrics to map facial features from a photograph or video, and then comparing the information with a database of known faces to find a match. Given that it has all kinds of commercial applications and can be used for almost everything from surveillance to marketing, the facial recognition market is expected to grow to $7.7 billion in 2022 from $4 billion in 2017.

Facial recognition has also become an important element of our everyday life, from the most serious security concern to more trivial uses of it. To better understand the technology and what it entails, let's look at some common cases.

One of the now typical ways to unlock a variety of phones is by using facial recognition. It provides more complex security features, helping to protect personal data and ensures that sensitive information remains inaccessible in case of theft or loss of the device. The same security principals can be applied in the working environment where access to certain sensitive information or areas within specific work facilities is restricted and only available to authorized individuals through facial recognition.

Retails and casinos are also two industries where facial recognition is used to flag out known thieves and cheaters in order to avoid loss in goods or money. As a powerful identity authentication tool, it can also be used to make sure that individuals at the ATM, are in fact who they say they are. All these applications of this technology clearly emphasize its contribution towards building a more secure environment.

Facial recognition has also proven to be a crucial tool for law enforcement with regard to finding missing persons and victims of human trafficking. Whether in a mall, at the airport, or at any public space, Law enforcement can be alerted as soon as a missing person is identified after they've been added to a database. Even when making a routine traffic stop, mobile facial recognition helps police officers instantly identify individuals from a safe distance. But since Machine Learning cannot guarantee a hundred percent accuracy when identifying people, some people have had bad experiences with law enforcement.

In 2018, in the United States, facial recognition software sold by Amazon mistakenly identified 28 members of Congress as people who had been arrested for crimes, although Amazon Rekognition has been marketed as a tool that provides extremely accurate facial analysis through photos and videos. Also, there has been concern over how the tech today encodes racial and other kinds of biases. Following the killing of George Floyd, IBM announced that it would no longer sell its facial recognition technology to customers, including police departments, for mass surveillance and racial profiling. Governments around the world are considering banning the technology. But what will that entail? Although governments' misuse (invasion of privacy, racial profiling, etc...) of facial recognition is fought by activists and lawmakers, many companies are still integrating it in consumer products (Face-ID Technology). Also with the COVID-19 pandemic, firms are racing towards more contactless tech such as facial recognition-enabled access control. A ban on facial recognition technology could then possibly alter its potential for growth.

Overall, whether for or against it, one cannot deny the remarkable progress already achieved within the Machine Learning field through facial recognition and its embedment in our everyday life.

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