Facial recognition systems that can verify a person’s identity have been around for several years now with security cameras and criminal databases.
Now with the rapid improvements to big data analytics and artificial intelligence, facial recognition software is about to become commonplace and change the way we live and interact with the world.
Consumers will be able to use facial recognition to make purchases, book tickets and unlock doors simply by looking into a camera lens and letting the software make rapid simultaneous measurements of the face that’s as distinct as a fingerprint.
This AI-powered facial recognition software will be more convenient, far more secure, and create new exciting apps and hardware.
At a time of uncertainty it will also allow security forces to track and identify people with far more precision.
The latest facial recognition software from Baidu, China’s version of Google is currently being used by Didi, China’s equivalent to Uber, to allow customers to confirm the identities of their drivers and is being deployed in high tourism cities to provide ticketless access to attractions. And Chinese security officials are deploying the technology to hunt down criminal suspects by drawing from its national ID database as well as images collected from public security cameras that dot the country.
It is the new applications that facial recognition is making possible that is exciting. When you combine facial recognition technology with deep learning, the AI technique that’s emerged over the last few years, what you get is facial recognition that’s good enough to identify people even when video of them is grainy, if the video is shot at an odd angle or even pick one person in a crowd of a million people in times Square on New Years Eve.
This is one of the profound advancements and also the most disconcerting. With extreme accuracy, the new technology can take a blurry image and identify what parts of the image should be used to create the fingerprint-like facial profile. The results have been extremely accurate.
Deep learning is a relatively new form of artificial intelligence involving a network of complex algorithms that are loosely based on the neural networks of a human brain. It’s basically a very potent pattern recognizer that draws from an immense amount of data that enables computers to do things like automatically add accurate colors to black-and-white photos or visually translate the text of a restaurant menu snapped by a smartphone camera.
This technology has the potential to make consumer life easier with ticketless train rides and transactions that don’t require a form of laminated identification, it will have increasingly significant ramifications for privacy and state surveillance.
The risks to privacy and civil liberties are substantial with technologies like facial recognition that can be used to identify and track people covertly, even remotely, and on a mass scale, for example, identifying individuals at lawful protests. The public should be skeptical of any surveillance technology implemented for consumer convenience that builds a mass surveillance network the government can appropriate for intentions beyond the scope of the original purpose.
As facial recognition technology grows more powerful, it will also heighten privacy concerns. Like many emerging technologies that rely on collecting massive amounts of data, it will be up to the public and lawmakers to decide how far they want to compromise privacy in exchange for convenience.
To be really effective, the government must have the trust of the public. Unfortunately, we have people in some parts of the US who are stocking up on guns and ammunition to protect themselves from the government, as crazy as that sounds. So we are a hell of a long way from trust.