Ethical repercussions of Facial recognition technology

Facial recognition once thought to be impossible is now mainstream in our lives. We have the FaceID by Apple, which adds an extra layer of security to your device. We have it in our homes. The technology forms the core layer of security at the airports. You will find a dense presence of Facial recognition tech at the airports, with cameras present at every checkpoint and corner.

We have products like doorbells featuring face detection technology. People use them to remain aware of their surroundings especially outside their homes and inside as well. We even have got robot dogs who recognize the face of the person offering them a bone. That is like the selling and key point of Aibo by Sony. We even have it in different rooms of the house.

If things continue, the way they are going, there will be no corner on the planet where there won’t be a facial recognition camera, in place. People are already embracing this new piece of technology and making it a part of their every day lives. After all, it helps you increase security to avoid mishaps like vandalism, heists, snatching, etc.

Sure, we cannot avoid the tech in public but is it really necessary when the same tech has the capability to collect data about your personal and private life. The tech is pretty dangerous in the wrong hands, hackers can gain access to the biometric data of your friends and family, even strangers. The tech is storing all that data in a systematic way and can very easily be potent in the hands of manufacturers and hackers. Is it even a viable security measure?

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Legal consequences of Facial recognition

Right before we consider the ethical implications, let’s have a look at the legal consequences. In recent times, Data Privacy has become a matter of concern for many and it has been gaining traction as well. Right now, there is no law that is regulating facial recognition. However, a couple of US senators have already proposed a law to regulate face detection. Bills have been passed on the collection of Biometric information. The oldest legislation regarding the matter is the BIPA(Biometric Information Privacy Act). BIPA was passed in Illinois, in 2008. It was passed in order to regulate the collection, storage, usage and destruction of the biometric information available. Texas followed suit in 2009 and passed its own Texas Biometric Privacy Law. Similarly, Washington got its state House Bill 1493 in 2017.

These bills, while regulating commercial and public use of biometric data, do not apply to private and residential use. Eights states have already got eight attempts at passing laws to protect biometric information, but they have not been successful.

Betsy Cooper, director at the Aspen Policy Hub, teaches tech experts the framework of policymaking. According to her, the legal implications are unknown.

In a statement by Betsy, she says:

“There are growing interests in your biometric identity and how to regulate that.”My research suggests that this is focused more on private entities, so on companies’ use of this data rather than private consumer’s use of this data, and so that sort of creates a space of uncertainty as to how consumers would be affected.

Say Cheese

Cooper further adds that taking biometric data via photo capture isn’t just about what is legal and what is not. Alot of other factors come into play when you add a security layer to your home, capable of facial recognition.

“There are deep ethical questions,” she said. “Because while the relationship between the individual and the person crossing their threshold is clear, the relationship between the person crossing the threshold and all those other companies and actors is less clear.”

Cooper also asks us to consider the fact regarding the device’s manufacturer. What do they do with the biometric data of your family and friends? Which implies that you have to stay vigilant and diligent when adding that layer of security to your residence.

One should be aware of the terms and conditions of the product. Also, consider the implications of the video content. and images that your device is capturing, in order to use it in a morally responsible manner. If you aren’t aware of the legal implications, it can be pretty tough protecting your privacy. If you don’t, then your privacy is at the mercy of the company, whose product you are using. You have to trust the company about what they say about data disclosure.

Regardless, these companies are pretty smart at covering their tracks. They dump the responsibility on you to get the consent of the people, interacting with your devices, directly or indirectly, to get their data collected. In case of any incident, the company won’t be responsible.

Nevertheless, it’s not like you can put up a sign of “Say cheese”. That would be ridiculous and not a right approach at all, to get the consent of every person getting in view of the camera’s eye.

Moreover, due to the presence of so many cameras, nobody bats an eye in public when they don’t receive any notification of appearing in the camera.

“As a society, we’ve sort of gotten to the point where it is accepted that somebody can be recording you on Instagram, just if you walk across the street or any time that you attend sporting events, there are cameras everywhere that may put you on the big screen,” Cooper says.

Cameras and Private property

If you are a property owner, you are entitled to know what goes around your residence and property. If someone sets foot on your private property, you can gather their facial information. However, if somebody is a renter, then the situation takes on a new perspective and enters a new dimension.

Besides, there aren’t any laws present that stops you from gathering biometric data of people, on your property. Laws are present however to stop you from capturing video footage with equipment not capable of facial recognition, in places where one would need privacy to quite an extent, for example in the bathroom.

That raises another important question, Should we notify the regular visitors of our home? Such as a sweeper? Whose job entails him to sweep the dust and come into close proximity to our residence, hence the cameras. They don’t exactly have a choice in the matter to not come to get their biometric data captured.

Luckily, the camera technology has made some advancements in the field and is capable of reporting unfamiliar faces. You can now train the camera to link names with the faces. This process takes several visits to complete. Identifying one time visitors won’t be such a problem.

Nipping the bud

Maybe these concerns should have been raised when the internet was a newbie among the people. It isn’t any more so we can’t really nip it in the bud. That would mean just discarding the internet altogether. Not an option anymore.

Tech companies like Facebook are seeing privacy sanction impositions. The popularity is decreasing, especially by the users in the younger generation. Nonetheless, give the people something to show off, such as having a smart house with a lot of savvy techs and they will ignore the repercussions of using that tech.

Although, in the US, the tech capable of facial recognition, such as phones, doorbells, and cameras don’t have a national database. But in countries, like China, there are.

We should consider, what would happen if all this information falls into the wrong hands or whether a criminal gets caught as his face was captured by this technology. Would we trade our privacy for capturing criminals or even identifying missing persons? The decision hangs in balance.

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What happens next?

We have to be extra careful when buying facial recognition devices, smart decision making is the key here. Sure, it will take some more time than it does usually. But, when buying responsibly, we usually take extra time. Such as carefully planning out the diet ingredients and buying electronics carefully studying the labels and manual. We need to adopt a similar mindset when buying this type of tech. We have got a moral obligation to the people around us when our devices are collecting their data and feeding it into a data center.
Let us know what you think of this dilemma in the comment section below!


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