This week we are talking all about facial recognition, one of the most controversial topics in tech. The proponents claim it greatly increases security – in many cases, it’s faster and more accurate than humans and it doesn’t require physical contact. On the other hand, however, there are many concerns about invading privacy.
Here is our rundown of the most interesting facial recognition news!
American Airlines Speed Up the Boarding Process
Following the trend in the industry, American Airlines started using a one-step facial recognition system at the boarding gates to speed up boarding. According to the company, the system makes boarding more secure and convenient too: “When customers begin the boarding process, the facial recognition program will scan an image of their face and send it to an existing cloud-based CBP database. The system then instantly matches the image against the passport photo already on file with CBP, and, if it sends back a yes, the customer is cleared to board within seconds at the gate.” American Airlines said that using the technology is optional and they do not store any data on passengers.
A Swedish School Fined for Using Facial Recognition to Check Attendance
A Swedish watchdog fined Skellefteå authorities over $20,000 for trialling a facial recognition system to track pupils’ attendance in classes. The motivation for the experiment was to cut down on time that teachers spend checking attendance in classes.
As reported by Business Insider, “The school in Skellefteå, a city in northern Sweden, was running a pilot program that tracked 22 students over the course of three weeks, recording a pupil every time they entered a classroom.” According to a report by the European Data Protection Board, the school board had obtained students’ and parents’ consent to run the trial, however under GDPR, facial images are classed as special category data, and therefore there are extra restrictions on its use. This fine is the first one issued in Sweden under GDPR and the ruling stated that while the school had obtained consent for data collection, but the school’s motives for collecting such sensitive data weren’t an adequate enough reason. According to BBC, “As a result, the DPA found that Skelleftea’s local authority had unlawfully processed sensitive biometric data, as well as failing to complete an adequate impact assessment, which would have included consulting the regulator and gaining prior approval before starting the trial.”
Megvii, Chinese AI giant, Plans Sell Shares
Alibaba-backed Megvii, one of China’s biggest AI companies, filed papers to be listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange.
You may have heard of their Face++, a face recognition system that has been widely employed in hardware of Huawei and Lenovo. Megvii claim though, that while they supply their tech to consumer-focused devices, most of its revenue comes from “smart city” applications used for security management at workplaces and schools. It has been claimed that the system was also used to help make numerous arrests in China.
The system is said to not only be able to recognise faces, but also read emotions, provide beauty scores, track eye-gaze and body gestures, and evaluate the health status of a person’s skin. Due to these advanced features, many campaigners voiced concerns about privacy and surveillance. Megvii claim that they want to use some of the funding from stock exchange to further their research.
This move further highlights the AI competition between China and the US – Chinese government announced they want support AI startups so that their country to become a leader in AI by 2030. To counter it, the American government are planning to blacklist Megvii from trading in the US.
ICO launch investigation into King’s Cross facial recognition
After concerns have been raised about privacy and surveillance, Information Commissioner’s Office decided to enquire about the facial recognition technology deployed around King’s Cross tube station. Argent, a property developer company, claim it is only one of the methods used to ensure public safety in the area. As pointed out by BBC, “So far, Argent has not said how long it has been using facial-recognition cameras, what is the legal basis for their use, or what systems it has in place to protect the data it collects.” The ICO want to find out if Argent used the technology in accordance to British law and how they plan to use it in the future.