How facial recognition technology benefits and harms us

By Amy Cavendish*
Thursday, 24 September, 2020

How facial recognition technology benefits and harms us

Ever since the growth of facial recognition technology (FRT), the world’s been cautiously optimistic about the benefits it brings to the table. After all, security experts have warned us time and time again about the dangers FRT may succumb to.

Because of this, I find it necessary to talk about how FRT is being used today, especially as the technology is trialled and used more extensively across Australia. To start us off, let’s go over how companies and industries are using facial recognition.

The trends of facial recognition technology

What kind of article would this be if I didn’t mention security? Yes, you’ve probably heard that countries have started implementing facial recognition technology in cameras as a way to monitor their populace in an effort to crack down on crime. This process has its downsides, of course, but there’s no arguing that it can help law enforcement arrest criminals.

Schools benefit from FRT for some of the same reasons. With FRT, schools are able to monitor who’s coming and going, giving the administration power to determine whether or not it’s a student, parent or complete stranger.

Also, schools can use FRT to take attendance and make sure all students are called for. Sure, there’s the basic method of calling out a student’s name and having them say “present”, but the FRT method helps save time.

Last but not least, facial recognition helps catch identity thieves. Yes, while many identity thieves take licences and IDs in order to pass off as the victim, facial recognition isn’t prone to such tricks, meaning that by using FRT, these thieves can be caught before they cause any real damage to the victim.

Why facial recognition can be beneficial

Facial recognition has, can and will be used for good in society. The trends I just listed help point that out. One major way FRT will help society is by streamlining certain processes, allowing employees and others to save time, whether this time is saved at the DMV or school.

Another way FRT benefits us is by ensuring that criminals won’t be able to move around as much as they can right now. With cameras lining up the streets, criminals won’t be able to move as easily — at least in public. This helps ease tensions, especially in areas where crime may be more prevalent.

The negative side of facial recognition

However, these benefits come at a cost, both to our privacy and security. First off, yes, while FRT can diminish crime in certain areas, it’ll also diminish our personal privacy. Facial recognition cameras will be able to scan our faces, enter our appearance into a database and be able to watch our every move.

Secondly, FRT can give a lot of power to corporations and governments while simultaneously taking power away from the people. This goes double if lawmakers aren’t willing to regulate the use of facial recognition.

To put it simply, facial recognition can do a lot of good for the world, but we must weigh the negatives. It begs the question: how can we protect ourselves from FRT?

Staying secure in a world of facial recognition

Before I go into the ways you can protect you and your identity, just know that the growth of FRT makes it almost impossible to avoid. Sure, you can be using a VPN to encrypt your online activity, and yes, you can wear a special mask that confuses cameras. But this technology will always get smarter.

That said, there are a few ways to protect yourself. One is, as I mentioned, wearing special accessories that confuse FRT technology. Another way would be to opt out of any data-collecting that social media sites may use, including storing your photos in a database.

And remember: while combating facial recognition may be almost impossible, keeping your privacy intact isn’t, and there are plenty of ways for you to secure your data and keep your information private.

*Amy Cavendish is a content strategist at TechFools, a tech blog aiming to inform readers about the potential dangers of technology and introduce them to the best ways to protect themselves online. As an outspoken advocate for digital freedom, Amy is dedicated to empowering her readers to take control of their digital lives with her thought-leadership articles.

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