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Why facial recognition isn't the way of the future...yet

Grant Hatchimonji | April 29, 2014
It's the how the future is meant to be, isn't it? The good guys need to find a bad guy in a crowd of people, so they start scanning the environment with a camera that is equipped with facial recognition technology. Seconds later, they scan a face that's a positive match with an entry in their criminal database and bam, they've smoked him out.

As he pointed out, there are already plenty of cameras placed around major cities that capture people on a daily basis, and the average person doesn't mind. Once facial recognition enters the equation, however, and the cameras therefore know who you are and where you are at a given point in time, the privacy question changes. Ultimately though, the amount of outcry is probably going to vary from person to person, he says.

"Whether or not there are privacy concerns comes back to what your opinions are on Big Brother," says Hauhn. "You will get as many different answers [about it] as there are people."

And what about how long these facial scans are kept in the backend? Hauhn says that police departments are claiming that they need to keep them for up to 30 days in case they need to do an investigation on where people were on certain days and that "those are the kinds of things that scare privacy guys."

There are, however, measures being gradually implement to regulate how long such private data can be stored, according to Lorenz.

"Yes, there are some privacy concerns. But right now there are a lot of biometric privacy of information acts out there right now," says Lorenz. "They address numerous issues, like, how are you going to protect, use, handle, and store that data? What's the retention around that? Once the retention is satisfied, how do you dispose of that data? Also, encryption: Are you encrypting on the backend? Do you have any tampering and safeguard measures?"

While there are many privacy acts out there, they vary from state to state and are typically centered around biometric privacy on the whole; it may be a while before we see standardized regulation of facial recognition across the board. After all, facial recognition is still early on in its growth process, says Lorenz.

"Collecting this data and analytics around it is very coming-of-age now," he says. "There are a lot of analytics that are being done in cameras today and facial recognition is just one more of those components."


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