The Impact of Facial Recognition Technology on Society
COMP 116: Information Security
December 13th, 2017
No longer an academic dream or part of a science ﬁction novel, facial
recognition technology is a reality that is just beginning to impact our everyday lives.
This paper describes the history of facial recognition and examines questions like, ‘is
facial recognition technology a safe method for securing sensitive information?’, and
‘can facial recognition reliably be used to track individuals around an entire country?’.
It also discusses some of the important legal ramiﬁcations that using facial
recognition as a means of securing information can have.
Facial recognition is the process of taking images or data of a face and
associating that data with a speciﬁc individual. The technology has been portrayed for
years in popular media. We’ve all seen shows where police were able to take grainy
surveillance footage and run it through some sort of database to identify exactly who
the perpetrator is. Throughout the 1990’s and 2000’s, despite an increasing number of
commercial applications, popular media was where facial recognition stayed for the
general consumer. As the technology progresses and evolves, new uses for facial
recognition are being developed. These tools are now present in phones, video game
consoles, and surveillance systems. As with most innovation, legislation lags
signiﬁcantly behind implementation. Yet, facial recognition tools are poised to have
devastating eﬀects on an individual’s privacy and security throughout the world.
To the Community
Individual privacy in the United States has been taken for granted. For many
years it was impractical for the federal government to spy on millions of people.
However Snowden’s revelations have shown the general public that the US
government is now both capable of surveilling large segments of the population and
willing to do it in secret. Now that facial recognition systems are able to produce near
human-like accuracy, a large scale surveillance scheme run by the federal government
based on facial recognition is much closer to reality. The TSA already announced and
started implementing plans to use facial recognition and other biometric data to
identify and track individuals, both citizens and foreigners, when they cross the United
States border . In China, a large scale surveillance program is already in place. It’s
slated to expand to almost 600 million cameras by 2020 and is capable tracking
individuals as they go about their daily lives. When tested by a BBC reporter, it took
authorities seven minutes to identify and locate him inside a large city using the
system . The Orwellian police state is no longer ﬁction. If you care about privacy
then it’s important that we call for legislation that regulates these kinds of systems
before they are implemented without our input.