By Edmund Zhen
Published: February 6th, 2019
One of mankind’s most groundbreaking advancements happened during the Industrial Revolution, where its inventiveness drastically elevated people’s quality of life. Today, the world experiences the highest living standards ever recorded in history, with technological advancements that go beyond our materialistic needs. Today, the focal point of our technological pursuit is slowly tailored towards digitization as more and more of our everyday lives are affected by it.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said to Fox Business News, “Everything that we think about, every place is being digitized, whether it’s a retail outlet or a hospital, stadium, your home, or your workplace is increasingly computing [and] is getting embedded in the real world.”
This rings true in describing how advanced we are with digitization. As more and more technological advancement happen, the tech sector is slowly garnering attention from other companies and even governments. Recently, a lot of the debates have been on the AI facial recognition technology. Word of its functions has enticed corporations and cities to reach out to tech companies such as Rekognition and NEC Corporation of America, a major supplier of the system. Facial recognition technologies have the ability to scan waves of people and at multiple locations at once, which would replace traditional methods of finding offenders by waiting at the scene. It gives the police force an omniscient approach towards fighting crime and a better sense of safety for the people. So far, the city of Orlando, Florida and the Washington County in Oregon have been deploying this technology and other cities are seeking to follow their footsteps as well.
The magic behind facial recognition technology is in its biometric identification systems. It examines the physical features of a person’s body such as fingerprint matching, eye scanning, and voice recognition to distinguish one from the rest. From that, they take the image and run it through their database in order to see if a match can be found. The extent of its efficiency is recorded by Tara Francis Chan, a reporter for Business Insider, in an interview with local Chinese newspaper Worker’s Daily. They said, “The system is fast enough to scan China’s population in just one second, and it takes two seconds to scan the world’s population.”
This means, in under one second, the computer database is able to scan the facial features of billions and individually run it through a database to find any perpetrators. The usage of it can be applied to the internet and in security cameras.
On the top of my head, I can think of many reasons on how this would be a good thing in helping to increase the safety of Americans. But beyond the optimism lurks a danger that threatens our freedom and liberty. If it ever becomes widespread, it can potentially give private corporations or the government the power to identify anyone and their information without them ever knowing. Just like what happened in the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, more of that can happen in the future if we allow for the widespread deployment of this technology. How would you feel if no matter where you go, there is always someone watching you? Since technology is always being upgraded and tinkered with, what if this technology opens the door to something even more intrusive? We might just not be able to ever reverse it if it ever happens.
Whether or not facial recognition technology is good for the American people or not, is still a mystery to be solved. Our involvement in it is still not yet advanced and current regulations on it are still extremely limited. As facial recognition technology gets more and more popular in the tech world, only time can tell whether or not this technology fits well into the lives of the American people, and if we are willing to give up privacy for the price of increased safety.