When new technology is invented, the first question tends to be how can it be used, rather than whether it should be used. We all learned that from Jurassic Park, but that doesn’t stop sometimes questionable uses of modern technology by governments and law enforcement agencies around the world. One of the most controversial topics at the moment in this area is how facial recognition tech is being used to identify us.
When it comes to simply using it as a quick and easy way to sign into your phone, having your face scanned by a device can seem harmless, but countries around the world are using it to scan for criminals, terrorists and other potential troublemakers, which means they are scanning millions of innocent people’s faces to do so, and this is causing concerns around privacy and also the potential for the technology to be abused.
This has already led to debates and legal disputes, with a pilot project using facial recognition technology at an airport in Belgium in 2019 being found to be in breach of federal law. But this is the only country to definitively rule that this kind of use of technology is illegal, as many countries in the world are actively using it.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security expects to conduct facial recognition scans on 97% of all air travelers by 2023, with more than 50% of us apparently already in police databases. Several airports across the country either use or have had it approved for use, while more than 30 police departments are using it already. However, there has been a fightback in some areas, with San Francisco, Oakland, Northampton and other cities banning facial technology.
According to a study conducted by Surfshark, 32 countries in Europe either use it or have approved it for use, with February 2020 marking the first arrest due to facial recognition CCTV cameras in London after they were installed the previous month. At Prague Airport in the Czech Republic, they are way ahead, having introduced their cameras in 2018 and made at least 160 arrests with it so far. However, France and Sweden are amongst those having second thoughts, having both banned its use in schools.
One of the leading adopters of facial recognition is Argentina, where a six week period in 2019 saw an incredible 590 positive identifications made by police, while their counterparts in Brazil used it at Carnival to make 134 arrests. 92% of countries in South America use it, compared to 20% in Africa, where this technology is only just starting to make inroads with companies in China leading the way.
How far do you think we should go with facial recognition technology in the battle between security needs and privacy concerns?