Should facial recognition be banned?

Should facial recognition be banned? Concerns have been expressed recently about the growing use of the technology, after a hearing in the US last Wednesday. It has been compared to an episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror- a show that explores the dark side of technology. Read ahead to find out why.

Facial recognition development started in the mid-1960s, after being funded by US intelligence agencies and the military. The technology can identify a person through a digital image or a still frame from a video. Over 50 years on, it has advanced massively, this has triggered worries about civil liberties, privacy ethics and social discrimination.

One of the most noticeable issues is the high error rates with women and people of colour- causing misidentification. However, politicians have explained that this is to be the least of our concerns as it is only a small part of a huge problem.

It is difficult to establish the ethics surrounding facial recognition due to the lack of legislation- therefore it has been banned in many areas of the US, such as San Francisco and California. Lawmakers have highlighted that there are no rules put in place to prevent companies from gathering our facial data without our informed consent. For example, in the US, it is enough for a person to be able to see the camera to grant consent because the technology is incorporated into companies’ systems without the implementation of any safeguarding measures. Portland plans to ban the use of the software for both the government and private companies in the city- this would be the strictest ban yet.

Is the technology just another way for businesses to sell our data and make money? Our facial data is gathered more often than we realise, such as through seemingly innocent Snapchat and Instagram filters that lots of us use on a day-to-day basis without even thinking. CCTV footage is another way that we are monitored and identified, but after recently being used in South Wales at a football match, it has been criticised for being a ‘step too far’ that carries the potential for miscarriages of justice. Regardless of this, the technology is still set to make its Olympic debut in Tokyo later this year.

On the other hand, it is important to acknowledge the positive effects of facial recognition. For example, it has helped find missing children and identify wanted criminals- but the argument remains that its use in public spaces could be too invasive.

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