Facial Recognition: It is here but Has It Brought Big Brother along for the Ride?

facial recognition
facial recognition

Every technological device has already facial recognition option so read our view on this amazing technology.

Technology leaps from one big step to another. Moreover, it seems to happen with increasing regularity. One minute, we are all using smartphones, the next we see the use of drone technology and now we are seeing cameras that can recognise our facial expressions and even who we are.

This might sound a little frightening to some. The idea that a wayward camera can spot out a member of the public and determine his or her feelings is the stuff of Big Brother, surely?

Anyone who has watched V for Vendetta (2005) will know how state security is able to monitor, tag and keep a close eye on all members of the public. But should we really be worried by this new and emerging technology? The one of facial recognition? Or is it just the spurious fears of alarmists and protagonists fearing the real emergence of Big Brother?

Under the Hood

Let us look closely at what technology has achieved in this field so far: Amazon, the book selling giant that seems to be getting bigger than Google these days, has jumped on board with a facial recognition technology package it calls “Amazon Rekognition”. 

Apparently it can spot things like emotions: fear, happiness, laughter, depression, sadness, content, morose and any other emotion you care to express. It also is adept at telling a person’s face and it sees what their age is.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and a vast improvement in the quality of security CCTV cameras has led those who watch us to make life easier when following a certain individual (perhaps a criminal, terrorist, lost or missing person). But it now has a new skill. Amazon’s technology can spot fear. 

Read also: Hololens, a mega project from Microsoft

Can You Fear the Force?

Spotting fear will alert authorities into a way of thinking that the person or subject could be about to engage in some untoward act. Possibly a crime, an act of terror, a theft or a victim of a crime about to happen. 

Moreover, it is not just fear it can recognise but several other emotions too. It will know when you are happy, sad, annoyed or angry, disgusted or disgruntled, laid back and relaxed and even lost or confused. 

The age recognition technology can narrow it all down to a five year span of accuracy. Of course, fears are abound that this kind of technology is to be of grave concern by members of the public and anti-privacy law movements expressing concern of abuse. 

After all, a technology that has the ability to tell all these emotions can determine what race you are, age and even sexual orientation (to come in the near future?). Who would not be slightly concerned?

Has It Been Used For Real Before?

Amazon’s technology was introduced in Orlando, Florida during a pilot scheme in the summer of 2018. It had a rocky introduction and a very bumpy ride when it was first introduced.

Facial Recognition: Controversial, Concerning and Alarming

It is not just in Orlando where facial recognition technology was introduced, surrounding in much controversy. At King’s Cross – the central London railway station – watchdogs described its deployment as “severely alarming”. 

Amazon and its software developer Argent Corporation, described the implementation as a “safety measure”. However, it has consistently failed to give further details on how the technology is scrutinised. 

In these times of increasing terror threats, lone wolf gunmen, knife crime among London’s youth community and a capital that constantly sits at a high threat level, it surely must be welcoming to know there is technology that exists to make us all feel safer?

If, after all, you are one of those who believes that you are law-abiding citizens and if you do no wrong, there is nothing to worry about. Then surely this technology has no alarm for you. However, even those in authority are edging towards new laws being introduced that will ensure our privacy is maintained. 

The land around Kings Cross station is privately owned but Argent covers vast swathes of this area with its facial-recognition camera technology. There are numerous shops, cafes, restaurants, offices and colleges within its domain. 

What concerns many is the fact that when facial recognition was introduced here, nobody knew anything about it. It was not announced to the general public and would have gone unnoticed but for the intervention of the world-famous Financial Times newspaper investigating. 

Even the Commissioner for Biometrics in London has called for a tightening of the law on the use of facial recognition technology being used by private sector companies (like Argent and Amazon) and what they can and cannot do with this information once they receive it.

Legislation is well behind the Technology

Legislation in privacy matters covers things like DNA, fingerprints and blood samples. It has not yet caught up to include facial recognition technology. This type of rapid advancement has slipped in to grab the worm (like the early bird) and defy any attempts at legislative control.

It is also alarming to think this database of information gathered by a private sector company is matching it against some other database – and one that few seem to know what it is. 

Civil Liberty – a watchdog group that monitors state controlled and private sector surveillance, has already revealed an extremely hi-tech camera based outside the concourse of Kings Cross station that possesses a deep learning form of AI technology.

The camera is actually an Avigilon H4 CCTV – which may mean little to you or me but it is at the high end of facial and vehicle recognition technology. When civil liberties liberty groups approached the local council with its concerns (specifically Camden Council) they were met with a short rebuff.

The Camden Council simply claimed to be unaware of the new technology and dismissed it as a “matter between the information commissioner and a private developer”. 

Perhaps of greater concern is that even the London Mayor, Sadiqi Khan has argued whether the facial recognition technology around Kings Cross is actually busting any privacy laws. 

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