Facial Recognition Technology and Related Privacy Issues
Last fall, the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") began testing and developing a system with the capacity to scan and identify people using biometric technology. At this time, the Biometric Optical Surveillance System ("BOSS") is in the process of redefining anti-terrorism efforts. However, there are several privacy-related implications tied to face recognition technology. For instance, is there a privacy invasion if airports use this technology to scan crowds to identify suspects on terrorism watch lists? Or, if you participate in social media websites, can these institutions use facial recognition technology to determine your age and gender for advertisement purposes? In light of these advancements, we recommend that you speak with an attorney who can explain these technological developments and the potential privacy implications.
BOSS, and other similar systems, are not completely ready for use yet. However, researchers are making significant progress, and this technology could become widespread soon. Although, its initial purpose was for anti-terrorism and national security efforts, facial recognition technology has since crept into social media websites. On both counts, there are growing concerns that scanning crowds is an invasion of privacy. Indeed, electronic privacy advocates are urging for a public debate on the purposes and uses of this technology in light of the grave consequences that may arise from potential privacy violations associated with the technology. Since 2011, legislatures have asked the Federal Trade Commission to assess facial recognition technology and provide recommendations for legislation to protect related privacy threats. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has noted that the DHS has not taken steps to establish safeguards to protect against privacy invasions with this new technology.
Facial recognition technology is already in use with various industries. For instance, hotels in Las Vegas already use facial recognition technology. Digital advertisement screens scan the person in front the display, recognize age and gender, and tailor advertisements accordingly. Social media websites, such as Facebook, would work much in the same way-i.e., use profile pictures to recognize age and gender to tailor advertisements to specific users. On the other hand, Google has said that it will not incorporate facial recognition technology for Google Glass without first ensuring there are strong privacy protections in place to protect against privacy violations. Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently spending $1 billion on a system that will use a national mug shot database to identify perpetrators in public.
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