Microsoft sounds alarm over facial recognition

What is Facial Recognition?

Facial recognition is a category of biometric software that maps an individual’s facial features mathematically and stores the data as a faceprint. The software uses deep learning algorithms to compare a live capture or digital image to the stored faceprint in order to verify an individual’s identity.  High-quality cameras in mobile devices have made facial recognition a viable option for authentication as well as identification.

Apple’s iPhone X, for example, includes Face ID technology that lets users unlock their phones with a faceprint mapped by the phone’s camera. The phone’s software, which is designed with 3-D modeling to resist being spoofed by photos or masks, captures and compares over 30,000 variables. As of this writing, Face ID can be used to authenticate purchases with Apple Pay and in the iTunes Store, App Store and iBooks Store. Apple encrypts and stores faceprint data in the cloud, but authentication takes place directly on the device.

facial recognition

Importance of Facial Recognition.

Developers can use Amazon Recognition, an image analysis service that’s part of the Amazon AI suite, to add facial recognition and analysis features to an application. Google provides a similar capability with its Google Cloud Vision API. The technology, which uses machine learning to detect, match and identify faces, is being used in a wide variety of ways, including entertainment and marketing. The Kinect motion gaming system, for example, uses facial recognition to differentiate among players. Smart advertisements in airports are now able to identify the gender, ethnicity and approximate age of a passersby and target the advertisement to the person’s demographic.

Facebook uses facial recognition software to tag individuals in photographs. Each time an individual tagged in a photograph, the software stores mapping information about that person’s facial characteristics. Once enough data has been collected, the software can use that information to identify a specific individual’s face. When it appears in a new photograph. To protect people’s privacy, a feature called Photo Review notifies the Facebook member who has been identified.

Is it dangerous?

Currently, there are no laws in the United States that specifically protect an individual’s biometric data. Facial recognition systems are currently being studied or deployed for airport security. And it’s estimated that more than half the United States population has already had their faceprint captured. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the only way to avoid having biometric information collected when traveling internationally is to refrain from traveling. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for European Member States does address biometric data.

How facial recognition application works

The software identifies 80 nodal points on a human face. In this context, nodal points endpoints used to measure variables of a person’s face. Such as the length or width of nose, depth of eye sockets and the shape of the cheekbones. The system works by capturing data for nodal points on a digital image of an individual’s face. And storing the resulting data as a faceprint. The faceprint- then used as a basis for comparison with data captured from faces in an image or video.

Even though the facial recognition system only uses 80 nodal points. It can quickly and accurately identify target individuals when the conditions are favorable. However, if the subject’s face- partially obscured or in profile rather than facing forward. Or if the light is insufficient, this type of software is less reliable. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the incidence of false positives in facial recognition systems has halved every two years since 1993.

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Uses of facial recognition technology

  • A research team at Carnegie Mellon has developed a proof-of-concept iPhone app that can take a picture of an individual. And within seconds return the individual’s name, date of birth and social security number.
  • The Google Arts & Culture app uses facial recognition to identify museum doppelgangers by matching a real person’s faceprint with portrait’s faceprint.
  • Professor Shen Hao of the Communications University of China uses facial recognition technology to track students’ attendance.
  • Amazon, MasterCard and Alibaba have rolled out facial recognition payment methods commonly referred to as selfie pay.

Pros of Face Recognition Technology

  • Improved Security
  • High Accuracy
  • Fully Automated

Cons of Face Recognition Technology

  • Firstly, Data Storage
  • Secondly, Camera Angle

All facial recognition technology emerges into the market with both promises and challenges. Such advanced systems process expressions and hand gestures within a matter of seconds. While the pros will advance, most of the cons- reduced by human tweaking.

Microsoft’s Concern              

At an event in Washington DC, Microsoft president Brad Smith,

We believe it’s important for governments in 2019 to start adopting laws to regulate this technology. The facial recognition genie, so to speak, is just emerging from the bottle. Unless we act, we risk waking up five years from now to find that facial recognition services have spread in ways that exacerbate societal issues. By that time, these challenges will be much more difficult to bottle back up.

In particular, we don’t believe that the world- best served – commercial race to the bottom. With tech companies forced to choose between social responsibility and market success. We believe that the only way to protect against this race to the bottom is to build a floor of responsibility. That supports healthy market competition. And a solid floor requires that we ensure that this technology, and the organizations that develop and use it, are governed by the rule of law.”

The ACLU says that the current test seems appropriately narrow. But that it “crosses an important line by opening the door to the mass. Suspicionless scrutiny of Americans on public sidewalks” like the road outside the White House. (The program’s technology supposed to analyze faces up to 20 yards from the camera.) “Face recognition is one of the most dangerous biometrics from a privacy standpoint. Including deployed on a mass scale without people’s knowledge or permission.

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Vaibhav Tyagi

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