The Case For Facial Recognition

Earlier this week I laid out one argument on why facial recognition is bad for today’s society.  Today’s facial recognition technology, as it currently sits, is not ready for prime time as it often misidentifies persons of darker skin than persons of lighter skin.  However, I am one who believes there is value facial recognition can bring, not now but soon, to our world.

If and when this technology is able to correctly identify persons, and provide equality for all persons of all races in detection, then there is a place in this world for this technology.  Let’s start with Safety.

A 2008 study reported that 20 percent of victims of Intimate Partner Homicide who had restraining orders were killed within two days of obtaining those orders; 33% in the first month.  That is a sad statistic.  Facial recognition technology could help prevent these types of crimes before they happen, reducing the compounding of tragedy that occurs with domestic abuse.  Cameras around your house, or your place of work, could be watching for specific persons with restraining orders and that directly break a restraining orders distance boundary.  Real-time identification, alerting the victim, public safety, as well as the intruder themselves, could create enough of an incentive for the crime to be adverted.  In addition, knowing technology is helping secure your safety, your mental well-being would also greatly improve in these situations.

Now let’s look at security, particularly for companies and properties with highly sensitive data.  These companies have photographs of every one of their employees, and their access credentials to certain areas of a building.  Instead of looking for a particular individual person, this scenario would flip the technology on its head and alert to anyone that did not match an employee database.  Quickly identifying persons who don’t belong can both help the security of a building, but do so without increasing operational costs to the business.  I have actually been working with a video surveillance company creating facial recognition to do just this; not identify who they are, but who they are not.

As a society, we have always been reactionary, putting the rights of the individual above the betterment of the community.  Facial recognition allows us to change that, and get ahead of potential threats to our person and our businesses. The argument for privacy does not carry the weight it once did, with social media allowing everyone into everyone’s private lives.  Public space is designed for the benefit of everyone and not any one individual.  Private business have every right to protect their employees and their industrial secrets.

When used properly, like any technology, there are positive benefits that can be obtained.  When used improperly, or when used knowing it is not treating everyone as equal, are when technologies like facial recognition run into problems.  While I support cities like San Francisco from banning this technology before it is ready, I am perplexed as to why IBM would stop their R&D into a technology that has great potential for the safety and security of our communal well-being.

I hope you enjoyed this series on facial recognition, and I would expect no less of you having your own opinions on the matter, agree or disagree.  At the most, we have engaged in a discussion, that with any technology, should be had before general adoption and deployment, which rarely happens.

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