Thursday, October 4, 2012

How Far Is Too Far?

Facial recognition solutions are on the rise. Although there are many benefits, this has also become a controversial topic amongst federal agencies, private companies, and privacy watchdogs. The main question is how much is enough when it comes to privacies issues? Businesses are continuously trying to strive to be the best in marketing and customer relations. They are willing to go through all odds to get their product out and selling to the general public. Facial recognition can arguably be the next big game changer advantage for companies. Businesses can use facial recognition to give valued frequent costumers extra coupons from the moment they walk in the door. Just from a costumers face they can access their personal information. The government and other agencies use this type of facial recognition as well.  The police, FBI, military, and law enforcement, are already taking advantage of this technology for surveillance. Facial recognition overall has some major drawbacks as well as major advantages to it.

Supporters of facial recognition may argue the importance of it solely on the business aspect. They believe that it will lead businesses to gain a strategic advantage, by giving valued costumers reasons to come back again and again because they will be treated special from the moment they walk in the door. Supporters may also argue that facial recognition is extremely effective through the police and FBI agencies. The police can use facial recognition to scan faces to spot wanted suspects and use it to scan license plates to detect when someone is speeding or driving recklessly. The FBI uses facial recognition to store finger prints, text data, palm prints and voice data.

Non supporters of face recognition argue that it is a total invasion of personal privacy. Even executive chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, warned governments against facial recognition technology by saying “it is too creepy even for the search engine”. Facial recognition could also have a negative effect on businesses if a customer feels violated from this type of facial recognition resulting in potential boycotts of the company.  Instead of improving sales, customers could be turned off by the invasion of privacy.

Facial recognition is also debatable in the legal sense. Members of congress are at a constant battle to decipher where certain companies or government agencies should draw the line. What is acceptable use? What is considered invasion of privacy and what is not?  Data analysis has been established to draw a clear line between legitimate research and the invasion of personal privacy. Certain acts have been enforced by the government to ensure that a company is not invading personal privacy. Overall not many companies are taking up facial recognition yet because they know that by doing so they could be at risk of encroaching on illegal activities. Most are embracing a wait and see approach.

After looking at both sides I feel that it is important to limit business use of facial recognition, while at the same time still use it for crime investigations etc. Facial recognition is an impressive innovative technology that should be taken advantage of but not for personal or business purposes. At minimum, consumers should have to opt in voluntarily if businesses are going to use facial technology.  I can see the importance in using it to detect criminals and help reduce crime. This technology can indeed be a very creepy way to invade our privacy. Even having the government using this doesn’t really sit well with me at the end of the day.  The attached you tube video supports my view on facial recognition.

Information Week: “How does Uncle Sam Track You?” By: Kevin Forgarty
Other Source:
Mail Online: “Too creepy even for Google” By: Daily Mail Reporter


  1. You present the many aspects of facial recognition for businesses very well, as it is a very controversial topic. I absolutely agree with you on the use of facial recognition, in that for right now we should limit it to just crime, FBI, police, and government investigations. Although facial recognition would benefit businesses in giving them advertising and personal customer advantages, it is just taking the technology way too far. It is a complete breach of privacy in that you are immediately recognized once you step inside a store, or maybe even just walk on the street. It makes me nervous to even think about because your every move is recorded into a database and you are never really left alone. But what happens when this technology is in the wrong hands? Kidnappers, rapists, thieves, and other criminals can use facial recognition to track individuals down and make them targets. It’s a frightening technology that could potentially put us in even more danger instead of benefitting us.
    I do agree with you, though, that it would be a great thing for the FBI and government to use for crime and terrorism. In an article I read, the FBI has actually recently announced that they plan to spend $1 billion on this technology, called the Next-Generation Identification (NGI) program. Instead of just using fingerprints, the police will have data on your DNA, iris, voice, and face. The FBI claims the NGI will be ready by 2014 nationally. For right now, the technology will be used for “identifying fugitives, missing persons, and unknown persons of interest; tracking subject movements to/from critical events; conducting automated surveillance at lookout locations; identifying objects in public datasets; and verifying mug shots” (Business Insider). Although the FBI is using it to obtain maximum security in the United States and give peace of mind, it is still a controversial technological advancement that could easily be taken too far.

  2. Kellie, I would like to first say that the topic you chose is not only relevant, but extremely intriguing. After reading your article and post, the first thing that came to my mind was the incredible power that technology has these days. Your discussion reminded me of a post that I published a few weeks back regarding RFID technology. Despite RFID and facial recognition being two different types of technology, I see a similarity in that they are both newly founded technologies that provide an abundance of advantages and do so many things for a world that is reliant on its technology. But, in both instances, we are left asking ourselves, can they do too much?

    Check out this video I found that actually shows RFID chips and facial recognition working together to provide this “Big Brother” like technology:

    I would also like to touch on both sides of the argument that are presented in your post. I can definitely see why one would think this technology is advantageous. In an economy where businesses are thriving to get the slightest edge, this technology could provide just that. Also, the technology allows places to increase security. The example that comes to my mind is airports. In a very interesting article I read on, the use of facial recognition in airports was discussed in detail. In summary, the article addresses how the technology can be used as a “major weapon in the war against terrorism”. After the September 11th attacks, the security at airports is at an all-time high, and this only makes it better. With pictures of terrorist groups stored in a database, facial recognition technology would be able to identify these people and alert security of it instantly.

    On the other hand, the disadvantage of facial recognition, as you mentioned, is clear—it is an invasion of privacy. Just like RFID chips are capable of, facial recognition allows an individual to take a picture of your face and have immediate access to your personal information. Here is a video that touches on how applications and devices use this technology to promote social networking, but in reality, it allows for major issues such as stocking.

    So, after evaluating your article and post, I agree with the fact that there are great advantages and frightening disadvantages. Just like with several other types of technologies that have entered the world today, we are left asking ourselves the following question: can they do too much?


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  4. This blog is a very well written critique about the concept of facial recognition. There are many pros and cons to the topic, which are clearly stated. It is important for companies to create new and innovating ways to market their products and set themselves apart from competition. Although, I feel like going to the extent of facial recognition may be crossing the line. There is a difference between getting to know the clientele and being able to find out all of their information in an instant.

    In a similar article in the NY Dailey News titled “Facedeals: New app uses facial recognition to ID you for discounts,” the face recognition app’s ability to detect a frequent customer before they even step foot in the door is explained. It also has the ability to check the person into their store on facebook as well as send them discounts based on their facebook history. The fact that they have access to a person’s social networking cite and are able to scan it as well as send discounts before the person even steps into the store in absurd.

    This takes marketing to a whole new level. I do not think this app is acceptable for stores to have, and especially to be activated without the consent of the customer. As mentioned in the blog, it is a complete violation of privacy.

    I do however think it can be beneficial in the hands of the FBI and government. When it comes to community safety I am all for taking necessary measures. A device that can act as quickly as this one is essential when trying to catch criminals. It is a faster and more effective was to put into effect law enforcement. In a separate article focusing on the FBI’s use of facial recognition, “FBI's Facial Recognition Program: Better Security Through Biometrics,” the topic of expanding is discussed. The FBI has plans to take facial recognition the next step further and attempt to stop crime before it happens, focusing on those “plaguing” businesses.

    There is a lot more work to be done before facial recognition devices are complete, but for now I would say they are definitely making an impact: a positive impact in terms of safety but a negative impact in the retail sector. In a world where many companies see their customers as additional revenue, they need to remember to respect the privacy and happiness of each individual.

  5. Though I respect the position that you, Kellie, have taken in response to this article, I hold the opinion that the use of facial recognition technology by the government would fast become a frightening invasion of privacy. In 2014 the FBI is set to have its $1 billion Next Generation Identification (NGI) program up and running; tests run on similar technology resulted in accuracy rates of 92% for correctly identifying the faces of individuals with photos already in the database. This means that for every 100 criminals run through the FBI’s system, eight could be misidentified. Putting surveillance on and pouring resources into invading someone’s privacy who hasn’t broken the law is a tell-tale sign of bloated government overstepping its bounds. Using the software to find people who have a warrant out for their arrest or something similar in nature would most definitely be a great idea, and save many man hours, but where should the boundary of who the government can target be drawn, and who can fairly and accurately draw it?
    The facial recognition software that is part of the government’s NGI program will be used heavily to find criminal faces in crowds, whether the footage comes from security cameras or something else; with this being the case a concern that comes to mind about the overreach of the system is the privacy of the individuals who are with the criminal in the scanned footage. These people may easily become persons of interest to the government and become the object of unwelcome and frankly unfair surveillance. Attempting to draw the line at what is an invasion of privacy and what isn’t becomes almost impossible in cases where the government makes an assumption of integrity before any crime has been committed. In my mind the government putting surveillance on an individual on the sole basis that he was seen with an unsavory individual is akin to assuming a person is guilty until proven innocent, which goes against the very fabric of our legal system.


  6. Kellie, I agree with you when you say that facial recognition should be limited. I was shocked to hear in the video that even Facebook uses facial recognition by cross-referencing pictures with others on the site. When I further researched the topic, I found that Google is doing the same thing.

    My Face, the new Google Plus service, makes it easy to connect names with faces. Google even added facial recognition to the Android mobile operating system. I feel that social networks should not have this technology. A major flaw to My Face is that it reveals identities all across the network, unlike Facebook that restricts the option to your friends. This means users have no control over who gets to see them in pictures. I believe in this respect, facial recognition is taken too far. It is an unnecessary feature. I found it interesting to research how far social sites like Google Plus and Facebook have gone. They are inflicting on our security and privacy tremendously.

    Retailers should not have the right to track their customers in a way that invades their privacy, as well. Retailers are able to individually track consumers by recognizing a smart phone Wi-Fi signal or through interpreting visual data from facial-recognition technology. This kind of tracking is unethical to me. A good point I read was that it was especially unethical because when a consumer looks into the store camera, they think it is for security, not marketing purposes. People in stores can instantly be identified and evaluated for credit worthiness.
    Although the federal government is using facial recognition to find criminals, in research I found this could backfire. The Federal Trade Commission even said everyone is at risk from the new technology. Criminals can scan faces to identify people and their address, so they can find prime targets for burglaries. I find this a major flaw that truly inflicts on our safety.
    One site I found showed evidence how facial recognition is not always effective in reducing crime. Installed facial recognition and license plate recognition software in MacArthur Park proved successful in capturing criminals and solving crimes, but when the same type of cameras were installed in the Ybor City area of Tampa there was no much success. The use of the software caused so much controversy that they were removed. I believe facial recognition yields far more drawbacks that benefits and needs to be used as little as possible.


  7. While I see the concerns that arise due to facial recognition use, I feel that in the future all companies will use the technology if it will give them a strategic advantage. After read Carr’s “IT Doesn’t Matter” article, this technology is exactly what he was talking about. While it is not being used a lot now, once companies start to use facial recognition and see that it helps them increase sales by focusing on certain customers, all companies will implement this technology. The strategic advantage will be short-lived, but companies that do not have this technology in the future will be at a strategic disadvantage. Anything that can help companies increase revenues will be utilized.

    I also do not agree with the concerns on privacy that arises due to this technology. I think that privacy is a big issue in regard to new technologies in general, but why is everyone focusing in on facial recognition? When someone uses their credit card or researches something on Google, all of that information is used by companies to improve their advertising. This has been happening for a long time and I consider this an invasion of privacy, but people do not fight against it. It happens and it has become accepted that their searches are being tracked. Eventually, the idea that their face can be recognized when they walk into a store will be accepted as normal.

    Lastly, I would have to disagree with you when you say that police could use this for criminal investigations. This would be a terrible step in the direction of making this country a police state and would be an infringement on every Americans freedom. The reason for this is there is no way to limit to what extent this will be used. The government could monitor people with government jobs if they call out of work sick but go out shopping, and monitor people in many other ways, which would just be bad for this country. Monitoring people who enter a store to increase revenues is fine in my opinion, but the usage of monitoring people for a criminal investigation would be going against a lot of the freedoms we give to people in this country. I would be cautious when considering using it for that reason.