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Facial Recognition Technology Under Fire

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Facial recognition technology has been all over the news in recent weeks.

In Canada, the Privacy Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, ordered that the Insurance Corporation of B.C. (ICBC) stop providing police with information from its facial recognition database, according to this article from the Times Colonist.

Allegedly, the agency offered to run photographs of rioters from the Vancouver Stanly Cup game through its facial recognition database to help police identify vandals. However, police did not accept this offer. With this ruling, the agency is no longer allowed to compare a person’s image to its database of 4.4 million driver’s licenses without proper court approval such as a warrant or a court order. As with many uses of facial recognition technology, this has come down to being an issue of privacy.

“You’re using everyone’s biometrics, the innocent and the guilty. You’re using the entire database of very sensitive information to confirm a match and that’s a different purpose for which that database was compiled,” said Denham.

The database was originally designed to reduce driver license fraud by comparing a person’s current and previous driver’s license, according to the article. The agency also failed to properly notify customers about the database when they renewed or applied for a driver’s license, she said.

In the states, facial recognition technology is becoming more common within the government. For example, the Washington State Senate recently passed a bill to implement a facial recognition system for people applying for driver’s licenses or other state IDs, reported The Bellingham Herald. The system would measure facial features and compare that to a state photo database in an effort to reduce identity theft and the ability for individuals to possess multiple IDs. If this legislation passes, Washington will be the 31st state to implement a facial recognition program.

And, a large deployment of facial recognition technology at London’s Heathrow Airport has been stalled, according to The Guardian. The airport is in the midst of deploying the technology at all five of its terminals to help ease the expected 45% increase in passenger numbers during the Olympic Games. The airport’s “e-gates” are designed to allow registered non-EU passengers to enter the UK more quickly by using facial recognition to cmpare their face to the photograph recorded on the chip in their passport. When the two images match, the gates open and the person is allowed to proceed. However, the program has been stalled due a UK Border Agency’s investigation. Whether or not the technology will be deployed in time for the Olympics is still unknown.

Lastly, U.S. lawmakers are urging the Federal Trade Commission to “look further” into facial recognition technology being used by companies, according to this article in Homeland Security News Wire.

“We are deeply concerned about how the use of these technologies impact the level of protection for consumer’s [sic] personal information,” according to a letter submitted by lawmakers to the FTC.

While the letter did not specifically name any companies, large companies like Google and Facebook have unveiled facial recognition features on their platforms.

Leischen Kranick is a Managing Editor at AMU Edge. She has 15 years of experience writing articles and producing podcasts on topics relevant to law enforcement, fire services, emergency management, private security, and national security.

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