Facial Recognition Technology: Privacy, Access, and Advancement

Accurate facial recognition technology seemed like science fiction even a few years ago. However, accuracy in computerized facial recognition has advanced very quickly. Computers are now almost on the same level as human beings in their ability to recognize a face, and the rapid advancement of facial recognition software has many concerned for their privacy.

Facial recognition has long been of interest to law enforcement agencies. However, these agencies aren’t taking the technological lead – the average person might not have even been aware of advances in facial recognition if not for Facebook. The social networking site now has 1.23 billion active users, and it is continuing to grow.

The FBI recently rolled out its facial recognition program, Next Generation Identification (NGI). This software only has an 85% accuracy rate. Meanwhile, Facebook’s DeepFace system returns accurate results 97% of the time. Facebook has fewer comparisons to make between faces than the FBI, though, so this isn’t necessarily a fair contest. However, believers in Orwell’s 1984 predictions are finding the government and law enforcement aren’t the only organizations keeping an eye on the public – social networks are taking the lead on recording where people are and whom they are with.

Individuals can now take advantage of facial recognition as well. The recently released FotoTiger app for Android automatically tags and sorts photos taken with your phone’s camera. Once people are tagged once, FotoTiger can recognize and tag them in future photos. Users can choose whether or not to post these tagged pictures on Facebook, or simply keep the photos organized within their phones.

Applications for facial recognition continue to grow in leaps and bounds as technology improves, but advances in technology aren’t necessarily combined with advances in privacy laws. The United States government has so far been silent on the privacy concerns these technological advances raise. As facial recognition is refined and applied more widely, it will be interesting to see how the technology is handled legally in the United States and around the world.

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