DEBATE: Should we be worried about facial recognition?

A photo of a computer screen running 'Re
We must be prepared to think through the social and ethical implications of our inventions (Source: Getty)

Should we be worried about facial recognition?

Dr Tom Chatfield, and tech philosopher and author of Critical Thinking, says YES.

Imagine. A super-high resolution drone camera captures ten thousand faces from a crowd in one shot; an algorithm processes and identifies over ninety per cent of them within moments; the results are cross-referenced with billions of bytes of other data, dating back decades. All of this is preserved indefinitely and shared widely, with corporations and governments tracking everything from credit and criminality to protest and voting patterns – and none of this process is either visible to you, reversible or accountable.

It takes a special kind of person not to worry about such a scenario, for which every required technology is already in place. Unless we’re prepared to think through the social and ethical implications of our inventions, we are in no position to defend ourselves and our children against their abuse.

The purpose of prophecy isn’t to predict the future – it’s to change it. And there are plenty of possible futures out there, already in urgent need of prevention.

Read more: The 12 best tweets about Apple's new facial unlock feature for the iPhone X

Keiron Shepherd, senior security systems engineer at F5 Networks, says NO.

The popularity of facial recognition technology highlights the demand for consumer experiences based on fast, innovative exchanges of data.

Such technologies have potential to better protect sensitive information by acting as an additional layer of multi-factor authentication and shape the future of biometric security. However, it’s important that consumers who choose to hand over a physical imprint understand the implications and risks of doing so.

As uses for facial biometrics expand further into the mainstream, businesses must ensure that the information they collect is fully secure and used appropriately for the context in which it has been provided. Unfortunately, no single authentication technique will extend beyond the reach of cyber criminals, and companies will soon discover user acceptance dwindling if an application protected by facial biometrics is compromised and valuable data stolen.

But if the public feels confident that the physical data they relinquish is safe, there is no reason why the benefits of facial recognition can’t outweigh privacy concerns and become a key technique to guard sensitive personal details.

Read more: AI can liberate humans to lead happier lives, if we get it right

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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