Facial recognition: Advantages and disadvantages

A facial recognition system is a biometric technology used for mapping the facial features, patterns, and/or texture of an individual from a digital image or live video feed for the purpose of identity storage and verification.

The system specifically uses a combination of mathematical analysis and artificial intelligence, particularly machine learning algorithms, for the collection, storage, and retrieval of biometric data.

The Pros: Advantages and Applications of Facial Recognition System

Central to the advantage of facial recognition is that it enables the computerized and automated processing of biometric data based on the digital image or live video feed of a person for a variety of purposes or applications.

Take note of the following:

• Security Through Biometric Authentication: One of the benefits of facial recognition system centers on its application in biometrics. It can be used as a part of identification and access control systems in organizations, as well as personal devices, such as in the case of smartphones.

• Automated Image Recognition: The system can also be used to enable automated image recognition capabilities. Consider Facebook as an example. Through machine learning and Big Data analytics, the social networking site can recognize photos of its users and allow automated linking or tagging to individual user profiles.

• Deployment in Security Measures: Similar to biometric application and automated image recognition, another advantage of facial recognition system involves its application in law enforcement and security systems. Automated biometric identity allows less intrusive monitoring and mass identification.

• Human-Computer Interaction: The system also supports virtual reality and augmented reality applications. Filters in Snapchat and Instagram use both AR and facial recognition. In both VR and AR applications, the system facilitates further human-computer interaction.

• Equips Devices with Added Functionalities: It is also worth noting that equipping devices with facial recognition capabilities means expanding their capabilities. For example, iPhone devices from Apple use Face ID for biometric identification and supporting its AR capabilities.

The Cons: Disadvantages and Limitations of Facial Recognition System

Despite the advantages and application, facial recognition system has drawbacks and limitations revolving around concerns over its effectiveness and controversial applications. Take note of the following:

• Issues About Reliability and Efficiency: A notable disadvantage of facial recognition system is that it is less reliable and efficient than other biometric systems such as fingerprint. Factors such as illumination, expression, and image or video quality, as well as software and hardware capabilities,       can affect the performance of the system.

• Further Reports About It Reliability: Several reports have pointed out the ineffectiveness of some systems. For example, a report by an advocacy organization noted that the systems used by law enforcement agencies in the U.K. had an accuracy rate of only 2 percent. Applications in London and Tampa, Florida did not result in better law enforcement according to another report.

• Concerns About Racial Bias: A study by the American Civil Liberties Union revealed that the Rekognition technology developed by Amazon failed nearly 40 percent false matches in tests involving people of color. In general, the system has been criticized for perpetuating racial bias due to false matches.

• Issues with Privacy Laws: Alleged conflict with privacy rights is another disadvantage of facial recognition. In Illinois, for example, its Biometric Information Privacy Act requires affirmative consent for companies to collect biometric data. The fact that the system enables less intrusive mass identification also translates to mass surveillance, which according to groups, is a violation of privacy rights.

FURTHER READINGS AND REFERENCES

  • Big Brother Watch. 2018. Face Off: The Lawless Growth of Facial Recognition in UK Policing. London: Big Brother Watch. Available via PDF
  • Krause, M. 2002. “Is Face Recognition Just High-Tech Snake Oil? Enter Stage Right. The Independence Institute. ISSN: 1488-1756
  • Snow, J. 2018. “Amazon’s Face Recognition Falsely Matched 28 Members of Congress With Mugshots.” ACLU. American Civil Liberties Union. Available online