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Facial Recognition Is Already Here - But is it efficient enough to stay?

In this day and age, technology is paving the way for the future - with the likes of smart phones, wifi, and cloud computing, digital identity is becoming the 'new way of security' and efficiency. In this blog, we discuss several companies using facial recognition, but also the risk that comes along with it.

Facial recognition technology isn't new, however it has progressed immensely throughout the past few years - mainly because of the advances in AI (Artificial Intelligence). This has of course drawn the interest of many organisations, and in particular, governments around the world, but is everyone in full support of it?

Facial recognition is one of biometric technology's biggest breakthroughs and since it first came to fruition in the 1960's, it has gone through a remarkable evolution that has advanced into other technologies that have incorporated it. Although it started in the 1960's, it didn't become 'mainstream' until AI software and machine learning solutions seemingly boomed in the 21st century.

Digital identification is the software that has the ability to map, analyse, and confirm the identity of your face in a photograph or video and has become one of the most powerful surveillance tools at our disposal. While many people use it simply to unlock their phones, or to get into an online banking account for example, companies and governments have now taken it upon themselves to use it to have a greater impact on people's lives. That being said, consumers are becoming a lot more comfortable with it being around - however, some have their doubts.

There are many benefits to using facial recognition, whether it's preventing crimes and increasing safety and security, to reducing unnecessary human interaction and labor. After looking into the benefits, here is what we've found.

Facial recognition software has been an effective measure against shoplifting in the retail industry. Business owners have been using the software within security cameras to identify known or suspected thieves, while the cameras work to deter theft in the first place. The Co-operative Group have 18 stores in the franchise which use the technology in an effort to reduce shoplifting and abuse against staff. As a result of these trials, other stores in the franchise are now believed to be trialing the facial recognition technology.

Southern Co-op have been using facial recognition technology from London-based startup, Facewatch. Anytime someone enters one of the stores that's using the technology, facial recognition is used. These images are converted to numerical data and compared against a watchlist of suspects with criminal convictions to alert staff and ensure customer safety. If a match is made, staff within the store will receive notification via smartphones.

"This gives our colleagues time to decide on any action they need to take, for example, asking them to politely leave the premises or notifying police if this is a breach of a banning order," - Spokesperson, Co-op.

Another company, Yoti, the global identity platform that changes the way you prove your identity whilst protecting your data is a notable example. Founded back in 2014 by Robin Tombs, they launched the free app that puts your own ID onto your phone, allowing consumers to have a reusable digital ID just a click away. Yoti gives their users a safe platform to share their personal details and third-party credentials with other businesses and individuals.

Yoti have also reinvented the way consumers sign up and log in to websites - web forms and passwords no longer protect user accounts and data, which is why they believe using unique biometrics to stop fraudsters from accessing data, whilst removing the inconvenience of remembering passwords for all the sites a customer uses.

They currently have over 10 million app downloads globally and their digital identity platform has now expanded to offer a suite of business solutions, which includes identity verification, age estimation, e-signing, and even AI anti-spoofing technologies. They now have offices in the UK, India, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and also the United States.

"All personal information is secured with 256-bit encryption and our security systems have been certified to meet SOC2 standards. As a certified B Corp, we are committed to protecting our users and balancing profit with people and the planet." - Yoti.

Another company that uses biometric technology is iProov, founded in 2012 by Andrew Bud CBE FREng FIET. Their mission is to make the world a safer place using the biometric technology to Genuine Presence Assurance.

Founder and CEO, Andrew Bud, had experienced first hand the effects of online criminal activity, and since vowed to find a way to enable organisations to verify the genuine presence of an online user.

iProov enable organisations to maximise online security while protecting user privacy and making the onboarding and sign-in experience as easy and convenient as possible. Genuine Presence Assurance is the only way to verify that an online user is the correct person, a real person, and that they are authenticating it at that moment in time.

Today, iProov is the world leader in Genuine Presence Assurance, which is trusted by the public sector, governments, financial services, safeguarding providers, digital identity providers, travel and health providers - they now have offices based in London, Maryland, and Singapore.

While most people agree that facial recognition software has the power to change the way businesses interact with consumers, along with many pros, there are always cons to any debate. As with any technology, there are potential drawbacks to using facial recognition, including threats to privacy, violations of rights, and personal freedoms, potential data theft, and also the risk of errors due to flaws in the technology.

Privacy is a key downside of facial recognition technology. It has always been a hot topic of conversation as people don't necessarily want their faces recorded and stored in a database for unknown future use. Privacy is such a big issue in some countries, that law enforcement agencies have been banned from using real-time facial recognition surveillance.

An example in particular that stands out here in the UK, is the system AFR Locate, which had been trialled across the South Wales police force since 2017 at big events such as concerts and sports matches. It compared images captured using the system against a database of images of people on a watch list, including criminal suspects and also 'people of interest.' The court ruled it unlawful - resulting in the trial coming to an end and police only being allowed to use video recordings from personally owned security video devices, instead of live facial recognition software.

Despite the sophistication and accelerated development of facial-recognition, along with any other form of technology, it has flaws. Although facial-recognition brings many benefits like convenience and security - it's debate about ethical use and accuracy continues to proliferate due to it's controversial malfunctions, as well as the fear of data misuse.

It has been confirmed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology that the majority of facial recognition algorithms affect the accuracy when identifying age, gender and even race. For example, it's been shown to be less effective at identifying women and people of colour in comparison to a white male.

It has been shown that the darker the skin, the more errors arise, and up to nearly 35% of images of darker skinned women especially are affected. The technology depends on algorithms to make these facial matches, and those algorithms are a lot more robust for white men than other groups of people as the databases contain more data on white males than they do of women and people of colour, which is something that needs to be addressed and fixed.

As facial recognition technology improves rapidly, the widespread application of this technology definitely holds much promise for the future, however it needs to be handled with a lot of care. Businesses that plan to use this type of technology and software need to understand it and also their approach towards it.

With the rapid growth of technology especially in biometrics, do you think facial recognition is something that the world needs in order to create a safer way of living online, or is it causing more risk?

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