Need for Regulation in Facial Recognition


When people talk about facial recognition, there are usually two camps. Some people think that facial recognition is a huge human rights violation that should simply not be allowed. Others think it’s a fun and harmless technology that people get too worked up about.


Which camp you fall in probably has to do with your personal knowledge of and experience with facial recognition. However, most experts believe that the truth is between the two extremes above and that facial recognition is a promising technology that should be watched closely.


Here, we’ll briefly discuss facial recognition. Then, we’ll explore some of its applications and why regulation is so important.


What is Facial Recognition?

“Facial recognition” comes in two kinds. One is more basic and is not a threat to anyone. The other, however, is more advanced and potentially more frightening.


Recognizing Faces

Humans are incredibly good at recognizing and focusing on faces. Basic computers have gotten fairly good at it too. For years, cameras have been able to recognize faces to help users take better photos.

For an understanding of how basic and non-threatening this kind of facial recognition is, cameras don’t even require the internet to be able to do it.

However, to be clear, this isn’t what most people mean when they talk about facial recognition.


Breaking Down Faces

When those old cameras recognize faces, that’s really all that they’re doing. However, an intermediate kind of facial recognition technology is able to break a face down into a series of patterns.

In a vacuum, this technology is also harmless. However, when this information is used with other databases, it can be more powerful and more potentially frightening.


Identifying Faces

Once a computer has broken down a face into those patterns, it can match those patterns with those of other faces in a database. This technology, the most powerful, the rarest, and the most controversial, allows users to apply facial recognition to crowds to find individuals or people of specific ethnic backgrounds.

The worst-case scenario often pointed to by registration advocates are stories from China about the state using facial recognition to locate and detain people from Islamic cultural groups. However, as we’ll see, more common use cases are far more agreeable.

Industry Use Case

Technology is neither malevolent nor benevolent on its own. How the technology is used determines whether it is a thing to be embraced or feared.


Social Media

The science of breaking down faces is encountered every day by thousands of people on social media. Companies including Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram use this technology for their augmented reality face filters.


Breaking the face down into patterns is what allows amusing computer “masks” in funny photos. As long as social media companies aren’t compiling databases of users’ faces for nefarious purposes, this technology is nothing to fear. However, social media sites have let us down in the past when it comes to data security.


Virtual Reality

Gesture control in virtual reality used to be achieved through external cameras mounted in the room. Now, it is often achieved through cameras on a headset that can see the user’s hands. However, having cameras inside the headset that can recognize a user’s face may one day be the norm.


At last year’s F8 developers conference, representatives from virtual reality giant Oculus said that this technology may one day be used to create realistic virtual reality avatars that can realistically speak and express emotion in real time.


Security and Law Enforcement

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