With the advancement in technology, facial recognition technologies have come into effect. It is a system capable of identifying or verifying a person from a digital image or a video frame from a video source. There are multiple methods in which facial recognition systems work, but in general, they work by comparing selected facial features from a given image with faces within a database.
It has numerous benefits. Thus, law enforcement agencies, airports, and business owners have adopted the tool in the name of safety and security. Retailers and social media platforms have turned into it for convenience. Recently, the police department of London announced that it would begin installing cameras in locations popular with shoppers and tourists to spot criminal suspects. It has stirred a debate among privacy advocates about how to properly balance security with individual privacy and liberty.
David Choffnes is an associate professor at Northeastern University whose research focuses on distributed systems, networking, privacy, and security. He is a founding member of Northeastern’s Cyber Security and Privacy Institute. He believes that we need to understand the risks of these technologies before deploying them at large scale to avoid unknown risks. There are benefits for public security. For instance, if someone steals a car or kidnaps a child, video surveillance can make the difference between identifying the perpetrator within hours of the crime’s occurrence, when law enforcement officers have the highest chance of solving a crime. However, we must not overlook the existing cases of abuse, misuse, and unauthorised use of surveillance data. This has enabled all kinds of malicious behaviour, including stalking, blackmail, and casing locations. Right now, we cannot know all the harms and benefits of facial recognition or public surveillance cameras. Choffnes has grave concerns over how certain governments have used facial recognition to track and arrest peaceful, pro-democracy demonstrators.
For his research, Choffnes found that Ring devices, which are wireless video doorbells for people to see visitors at their doorstep, used motion sensors to record visitors for 10 seconds with no indication to those visitors that they were being filmed. It was later revealed that the device’s mobile application is packed with third-party trackers that send out personal information to analytics and marketing companies, including the customer’s name, IP address, mobile network carrier, and sensor data.
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman