Your face is getting a lot of attention—whether you want it to or not. Facial recognition technology isn’t new, but it is rapidly becoming one of the most robust forms of biometric identification that can be used to determine who you are.
It’s highly likely that you’re already using your faceprint as an ID. All the big wireless carriers offer at least one phone that you can unlock with a glance; if your company has invested in biometric authentication, your face allows you to access your computer using Windows Hello; and social media sites like Facebook and Instagram (or, more ominously, the government) can filter photos of your face without your permission or knowledge.
That last reason is why faceprints have set off alarm bells with privacy experts: Unlike iris scans and fingerprints, you don’t have to give your consent for a deep-learning AI to analyze your facial structure and skin tone. Commercial facial recognition tech has also proven to be less accurate on darker-skinned people because their faces were underrepresented in the data sets originally used to train the AI; while major industry players such as Microsoft and Amazon are working to course-correct the problem, concerns about racial bias remain. New laws such as the Biometric Information Privacy Act in Illinois, which requires companies to secure written releases before collecting biometric data, are already being cited in privacy lawsuits.
So…that all sounds pretty scary. Is facial recognition tech something your company should even consider investing in, either for internal IT security or for external business opportunities? The answer is yes—if you do so responsibly. And there are some very exciting innovations in the field, too. Here are some of the positive things happening right now in faceprint tech:
Much of government surveillance will be dedicated to finding people who cannot help themselves, such as children, elderly people with dementia, and trafficking victims. It’s predicted that by 2023 there will be an 80 percent reduction in missing persons in “mature markets” (mostly large cities). A facial recognition system recently piloted in India found 3,000 missing children in four days.
Facial recognition tech can scan the faces of patients to tell if they’ve been taking their medications; monitor the level of pain they are in; and even diagnose certain genetic diseases. Eventually, robotic health assistants will use facial recognition tech to determine a patient’s mood and assist them better.
Helping the visually impaired
Being able to react to someone’s facial expression is something most people take for granted—but what if you can’t see their face? Listerine developed an app for the visually impaired that vibrates and beeps when someone is smiling at them, so they can smile back. Facebook is also developing an accessibility bot that helps the visually impaired identify friends and their facial expressions in photos.
Consumer goods and marketing
Chinese car manufacturer Byton has developed an electric SUV with seats that recognize the passenger and driver and delivers personalized information like their schedule, entertainment preferences, and even their health diagnostics. Facial recognition tech is also being used by some brands for entertainment, such as Google’s app that matches your selfie to a famous painting.
A handful of retailers are experimenting with “selfie payments” that allow you to pay with facial recognition. KFC in China lets you pay with a smile, and also customizes your ordering options based on your past preferences.
Imagine being able to board a train without getting out your subway pass, or zip through airport security without stopping to show your passport. Long security lines cause one in seven air passengers to miss their flights, a stat that faceprint tech could greatly reduce.
Next steps for your business
- Keep an eye on legislation related to facial recognition, such as a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate in March that would require companies to get permission before using facial recognition in public places or sharing face data with third parties.
- Embrace faceprint IDs for company device and data security, but allow employees with privacy concerns to opt out.
- Make a long-range outline of ways faceprint tech could help your business in the future, such as time and attendance (clock-punching) identification, and point-of-sale identification that improves customer service.