The growing use of facial scanners by the private sector worries privacy advocates


Privacy advocates worry that the growing use of facial recognition software in the private sector is leading to increased public scrutiny and undermining civil liberties.

As cruise lines, NFL teams, airlines and retailers like Walmart begin testing and using facial recognition software for their own security systems, experts fear the technology will usher in a further erosion of life. private.

“The biometric surveillance creep continues in both government and the private sector,” said Adam Schwartz, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties advocacy group.

{mosads}Schwartz and other privacy advocates worry that the increased collection of biometric data, especially through facial recognition software, could pose a danger to the public.

They fear that the increase in facial recognition software will facilitate mass surveillance. And the ubiquity of surveillance cameras, which can easily be outfitted with facial recognition software and fed into facial databases, means there’s already a device in place for large-scale surveillance.

“It’s a very big concern for us,” Schwartz said. “What differentiates facial recognition from other biometric data is that it is very easy to collect from a person without them noticing.”

Facial recognition software poses a particular risk to privacy, as massive amounts of collection can occur without the consent of those under surveillance.

Fingerprint scans require an individual to place their finger on a scanner, while DNA collection is difficult to accomplish unnoticed. By comparison, facial scans can be performed anywhere with cameras linked to facial recognition software, whether or not the subject knows their face is being captured.

Experts are also concerned that biometric data, such as fingerprints, DNA or facial imagery, may be even more sensitive than important but changeable personal information such as credit card and social security numbers. Databases containing biometric data pose huge cybersecurity challenges as they are increasingly valuable to hackers.

“Once your biometric data is stolen, hackers can do things with it,” Schwartz said. “If someone gets their fingerprint and maybe it can be weaponized against you and someone can get into things you were using it in.”

Schwartz points out that once this information is stolen, a fingerprint or face cannot be altered to prevent a hacker from using a victim’s biometric data.

These issues are becoming increasingly urgent as the use of facial recognition technology begins to expand.

The FBI already has a huge facial recognition database with access to 411.9 million images. State and local law enforcement agencies are also using technology to aid in their policing.

But facial recognition is no longer limited to government agencies, which are at least at some level accountable to the public.

In 2001, the NFL used during the Super Bowl to monitor the crowd for criminals without the participants’ knowledge or consent. This year, facial recognition technology could return to football, with two NFL teams contracted with security firm IDEMIA in 2017 to create a TSA Precheck-like security system for fans entering their stadiums.

Like TSA Precheck, also provided by IDEMIA, the system allows fans to register for access to games. Spectators enrolled in the program can then pass through security more quickly, thanks to biometric measures such as fingerprint and face scanners. IDEMIA said it will use biometric data for its system, but is still deciding whether it will use fingerprint scanning, facial recognition software, or a combination of these software.

IDEMIA is also using facial recognition technology to create similar systems for cruise line Royal Caribbean. The company is also working with other companies on deals that have yet to be announced, according to IDEMIA North American President Robert Eckel.

IDEMIA’s use of facial recognition software is different from the NFL’s previous attempt at the technology. Individuals’ facial data is only collected after giving consent to IDEMIA – a step that security experts appreciate.

But while IDEMIA’s facial recognition system is opt-in, proponents are still wary of what more widespread use of facial recognition technology could lead to.

“We fear further normalization of this,” Schwartz said. “Once people start doing facial recognition on an airplane, they’ll get used to it in a supermarket. And then, all of a sudden, our lives become more and more exposed.

{mosads}The type of facial recognition systems that concerns Schwartz are already being tested in UK grocery stores.

Even though IDEMIA is doing its part to obtain consent from individuals, some advocates worry that consent could be blurry if opting for facial recognition is the most practical option.

“Consent can be manipulated,” said Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union. “I’ve raised questions as to whether the TSA is doing it or not.”

Stanley and Schwartz note that the consent line is very thin and can be influenced by things like line speed. They question whether consent is really consent if one line moves faster than another, prompting individuals to simply choose the easier option.

“You can put more workers in some lines and have them move faster and others move slower,” Stanley said.

This becomes a complicated question, however, as IDEMIA’s technology is partly intended to move people faster through the lines.

IDEMIA’s Eckel said people who have opted into the membership are enjoying the results of the facial recognition technology so far, regardless of the experts’ concerns.

“People are very excited about how frictionless it is and how simple it is,” Eckel said. “They just come and we wave at them.”


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