Biometric face recognition technologies are a new and evolving measure that governments and firms use to identify criminals and protect innocent people. However, the makers of this biometric face technology must contend with the inevitable ethical issues: what if the wrong person is identified or what if the technology infringes upon individual rights? Developers and researchers are constantly measuring and testing biometric methods to ensure that the right individual is identified, although the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) asserts that the technology is, “outpacing our basic control de acceso biometrico privacy rights.”
However, public attitudes are becoming less negative, due in part to 9/11 and the London bombings, and to the prevalence of DNA testing. Some of these concerns have kept face recognition products from reaching their full potential, but these concerns will fall by the wayside when governments and firms acknowledge that face recognition technology is the best passive and non-intrusive recognition technology available.
The biometric identification equipment assigns a numerical value to every subject captured by hi-tech cameras. Biometrics identify spacing between the ears, eyes, and nose, as well as allowing for variants such as facial hair and glasses. But biometric technologies are not yet as accurate as fingerprinting. A positive ID can be made with biometrics 95% of the time, as opposed to 99% of the time with fingerprinting, but biometrics has the advantage through image data volume: there are 1.3 billion photographs of individuals on official databases, versus only several hundred million sets of fingerprints on file.
Biometric market growth and its applications today
Most of the biometric industry’s revenue comes from government security applications, with only 20% of the total coming from the health care, financial services and transportation industries. The business is growing as the technology’s performance is improving and non-government firms are using the biometrics to ensure proper authorization and authentication when regulating physical access. State and local governments use face recognition technologies by providing first-responders to a crime or accident scene with biometric ID cards.
What about big brother?
The ACLU does not support most face recognition technology since it claims previous attempts at the technology have failed. This is true: at the 2001 Super Bowl in Tampa, the biometric software wrongly identified several individuals as wanted persons, and there were failed biometric surveillance installations at several airports. Left unchecked, civil libertarians feel that face recognition technologies will trample on individual rights and freedoms since there are no new laws that address the use of biometrics. However, the ACLU has gone on record to accept the use of biometrics in airports areas and for solving the London bombings.
Biometric experts also concede that the technology is not foolproof, and would be very dangerous if someone’s photo ID were stolen.
Applying biometrics for an authentication system must be a concerted and collaborative effort that takes into account several components:
o A person’s ID and biometrics
o Something that person has such as a key or token
o Something the person knows, such as a PIN or password
Because the biometric technology of today is slightly inaccurate, other identifying tools need to be used alongside of it.
Flaws in the face recognition technology will be challenged and overcome, because identifying suspects through biometric means will quickly solve cases and will save lives.