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The Impact of Facial Recognition Technology on Society 
Derek Benson 
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. 
Benson 2 
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. 
Benson 3 
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 [8]. 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 [11]. 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. 
Benson 4 


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