Recently, there was a settlement reached between Clearview AI and different civil rights groups regarding the company’s facial recognition technology. This settlement was filed in Illinois, a state that has more restrictions and regulations than others on biometric technologies. This settlement is important, as facial recognition technology is fairly new and has many potential issues that could arise because of it. Today, we will look at some pros and cons of facial recognition to determine what the future of this technology might look like.

What is facial recognition technology?

As its name suggests, facial recognition is a form of biometric technology that uses AI to match a human face to that of a digital image. These images are then loaded onto a database where billions of potential matches are stored. This might seem similar to fingerprinting, but it proves to more effective, as there is no need for a physical fingerprint. As long as a face is able to be scanned, a potential match can be found.

Who is Clearview AI?

Clearview AI is a facial recognition company located in America. They claim to have a database of over 20 billion facial images that have been sourced from all over the internet. Clearview AI provides law enforcement, private businesses, and even individuals access to their software to use their facial recognition technology.

What are some benefits of facial recognition technology?

Facial recognition technology is certainly a huge deal. The ability to scan a human face and use it digitally is something straight out of science fiction. Here are a few different ways this new technology has been implemented already:

  • Assisting law enforcement – As we mentioned before, Clearview AI has used their facial recognition technology to assist law enforcement with solving different cases. Their large database allows for law enforcement to match suspects with images that might have been posted to the internet.
  • Retail – Believe it or not, but facial recognition has been used by some retailers in China. This allows for shoppers to simply grab what they need and walk out of the store. Their payments are tracked using facial recognition and other biometric technologies.
  • Smartphones – You have probably already seen different Android and iPhones that use facial recognition to unlock your phone or save/enter passwords. This is one of the more common ways this technology has been implemented.

Why should we be concerned about facial recognition?

If you read the previous section and felt uncomfortable or skeptical, you are not alone. There are many who advocate against the use of facial recognition technology because of the potential dangers it brings to society. Many see technology as somewhat “dystopian” and believe it can bring about negative changes in our day-to-day lives. Here are some of the reasons for the distrust of this technology:

  • Privacy – The number one reason most are against the use of facial recognition is because of its breach of privacy. Clearwater AI, for example, gets their images from the internet. While these images might be public, it is still concerning that they are able to simply scan the web for people’s faces to be used in a database. There are already major concerns about how companies sell user data, so it is no surprise that a technology like facial recognition has its controversies.
  • Tracking – This kind of thing falls under privacy, but one specific way many people are concerned about facial recognition is the potential for one’s location to be tracked with it. While other devices can be turned off, or permissions can be disabled, there isn’t really a way to tell a camera or other device not to track someone’s face. With the COVID-19 pandemic, one might think wearing a face mask could deter people from such tracking, but some facial recognition is able to identify someone regardless of whether they are wearing a mask.
  • Anonymity – Many people like the ability to remain anonymous, whether this be on the internet or in public. With facial recognition technology, this becomes more difficult, as one’s face might be in a database that identifies who they are.

What was settled in the Clearview AI case?

As we mentioned at the start of this article, Clearview AI reached a settlement from a lawsuit that was filed by several organizations. Here are some of the details regarding the outcome of the settlement.

  • Clearview AI cannot sell its facial recognition database to private US businesses.
  • Clearview AI cannot sell any of its databases to any agency in the state of Illinois within the next 5 years.
  • Individuals in Illinois can opt-out of being included in Clearview AI’s database.

This settlement means quite a bit for the future of facial recognition here in the U.S. While it targets Clearview AI specifically, it does a good job of setting a precedent that prevents facial recognition from being abused.

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