Governments around the world are adopting facial recognition in counter-terrorism, airport security, and protecting the public.
Facial recognition¹ is becoming part of our lives and tech companies including Microsoft are voicing their concerns about the extremes of this technology.
Police Departments are adopting facial recognition for investigations and activists are increasingly worried about this trend.
Facial recognition technology without regulation could infringe human rights by giving governments power over individual freedoms.
China² is an example of facial recognition at scale with the country facing criticism for turning into a police state.
Why is facial recognition a controversial topic?
The move by the State of California³ to ban facial recognition exemplifies the sensitive nature of this technology in the public domain.
There is mistrust between people and Governments on the implementation of facial recognition. The public wants privacy and freedom and facial recognition threatens these personal rights.
Despite the risks posed by facial recognition, let us not forget the benefits including national security intelligence, which protects the public.
Every law requires governing principles and the same applies to facial recognition, which needs sensible legal frameworks⁴ to ensure everybody benefits from the technology.
Overview of Facial Recognition
Human rights activists criticize facial recognition for going against individual rights by collecting information without their consent. Government agencies and the police⁵ are on the spot for using facial recognition for the wrong reasons.
The idea behind facial recognition is using technology for the benefit of humanity and according to Peter Clarkson, a researcher on facial recognition, this is not happening.
Racial bias⁶ from facial recognition makes this technology dangerous according to civil liberty groups in the USA and Britain. Facial recognition reports many errors when identifying people and complicates the racial bias problem already happening.
The incident of facial recognition bias against African Americans best illustrates serious flaws of this technology that need attention.
Microsoft is leading tech companies in developing regulations around facial recognition because of the negative implications experienced already.
The rate of misuse is high according to a Pew Research poll that found 60% of companies using this technology without following proper regulations. Misusing facial recognition has consequences and requires bold action to address these risks.
Lack of public engagement about facial recognition has contributed to the current state of misuse including using data from people without their approval.
There are no tangible regulations governing facial recognition as more companies adopt it. Service providers⁷ of facial recognition and government agencies need regulation to uphold trust and integrity as stated in the law.
Lessons from the Washington Privacy Act
The SB 6280 legislation adopted in Washington D.C seeks to regulate facial recognition by enforcing rules governing consumers and technology vendors.
Inclusiveness is a priority in this bill and focuses on consumer protections by making facial recognition beneficial to the public⁸ without compromising privacy. Agencies intending to use facial recognition must comply with the stipulated principles in the SB 6280 law.
Services using facial recognition according to SB 6280 law must abide by the legal principles through assessing the ramifications. Accountability is required for those using facial recognition alongside scrutiny by the public. The SB 6280 regulation requires companies to inform the public about their intentions of using the service.
Education about facial recognition comes second according to SB 6280 and service providers must train employees on using this technology. Employees must understand the implications of using facial recognition and their decisions should resonate with the privacy of individuals⁹. Lack of abiding by these requirements attracts punishment under the law including fines, penalties, and revoking licenses.
Facial recognition databases must avail information upon request for transparency purposes. The public expects fairness from facial recognition and the SB 6280 regulation enables openness from service providers. By keeping and producing databases on facial recognition, it becomes easy to assess the compliance standards adopted by service providers and agencies.
From a legal standpoint, courts must report when facial recognition companies fail to respect individual rights. Disclosing information on facial recognition is critical and agencies/companies must offer information upon request in the expedition of justice. The SB 6280 law outlines implications of using facial recognition from providers and reduces unfair surveillance which compromises individual liberties.
A panel on facial recognition and reviewing the actions of service provider’s ensures that justice prevails and reducing risks on public freedom. The SB 6280 requires the setting up of this panel to explore all areas of facial recognition and reporting the state of affairs per established laws. This panel on facial recognition must offer proposals on a given case based on their judgments which meet legislative requirements outlined in the law.
Agencies within government and companies using facial recognition according to SB 6280 should communicate their goals to the public. For instance, they must open their operations to scrutiny by informing the public about the objectives of using facial recognition. Facial recognition companies in Europe and the US have come under pressure because of their biased systems that have negative intentions to the public. This law aims to avoid this scenario by developing a transparent culture on use of facial recognition.
Human intervention remains a priority under SB 6280 as bias in facial recognition increases. To this end, companies using facial recognition must verify bias incidents by using human assistance. Discrimination of facial recognition among minority groups poses problems with algorithms¹⁰ producing inaccurate results. The SB 6280 regulation wants to avoid these experiences by developing a transparent law that benefits the public.
Respect for human rights matters in advancing democracy and facial recognition companies must not interfere with individual privacy such as identifying people in crowds. China continues to erode these principles with the country using facial recognition for mass surveillance. Subways and streets in China have facial recognition systems, which send images of people in real-time. The SB 6280 law wants to prevent such an instance by protecting the public and ensuring accountability from service providers.
Facial Recognition without compromising Privacy?
This is a question in the minds of many people as the facial recognition debate rages on.
Alvaro Bedoya from the Center for Privacy and Technology believes that facial recognition can work well and comes down to the right regulations, which companies must follow.
He mentions the importance of keeping the police in check when dealing with facial recognition in the public. The police have a reputation of harassing people based on gender and race meaning that facial recognition needs controls to achieve positive outcomes in society.
On a scale of 1–10, facial recognition score stands at less than two because of using the technology for the wrong reasons. The UK has experienced controversies around facial recognition with the police accused of compromising individual rights by using data/images from the public.
The British courts in 2019 reported a surge in surveillance cases¹¹ with complainants accusing the state and service providers of using facial recognition contrary to the law.
Legal lawsuits on facial recognition are increasing in the USA as companies continue to undermine public privacy for their interests. Regulations will address this problem by protecting the public from unfair actions of facial recognition.
The way forward on Facial Recognition
There is skepticism from the public about facial recognition according to Daniel Parks, a facial recognition expert in Boston as surveillance practices continue.
Surveillance on the public contravenes civil liberties and freedoms, which means developing accountability measures. Regulations will streamline the relationships between facial recognition service providers and the implementation to the public benefit.
The SB 6280 regulation is a step in the right direction as facial recognition comes of age in 2020. These regulations propose measures that companies must comply with to benefit the public and not cause harm.
Instilling a culture of trust is critical for the adoption of facial recognition and the SB 6280 regulations in the State of Washington create an open and transparent system for the public.
The case of bias comes down to clean data and training algorithms on diverse populations to achieve good results. Facial recognition bias could lead to mistrust with the public and addressing these flaws remains a high priority. Cases of tricking facial recognition abound and developers of this technology should harmonize systems to protect public interests.
Public discourse on facial recognition matters in the United States where the public is sensitive to privacy issues and personal freedom. Achieving a transparent and accountable facial recognition law requires collaboration between service providers and the public. The facial recognition technology poses major threats to public freedom and the time is now to start discussions on this sensitive subject.