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The Pros and Cons of Biometrics and Facial Recognition

The Pros and Cons of Biometrics and Facial Recognition 

Technology serves a major function in our lives, and with the advancement of society comes the advancement of technology. Our communities value ease of access, and technology and the law have become more intertwined. Biometrics and facial recognition provide efficacy, but at what cost?

What Are Biometrics and Facial Recognition?

Biometrics is the measurement and analysis of a person’s unique physical characteristics, such as fingerprints, that can be used for automated recognition. Facial recognition uses biometrics to detect and measure various characteristics of human faces. This includes, but is not limited to, the location of a person’s eyes, eyebrows, nose, mouth, chin, and ears. Facial recognition is easily one of the most powerful surveillance tools, and it has long been used by agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS). These agencies use facial recognition to enforce laws, facilitate travel and trade, and protect the public from harm. While once reserved for law enforcement, facial recognition has increased in popularity, and it is used more in our personal, private lives. We now use facial recognition to unlock our personal devices and enter passwords on mobile applications. Social media networking sites are also notorious for their use of facial recognition. For example, Facebook uses facial recognition software to automatically recognize when a user appears in a photo, regardless if the users are “friends” on the site. Photo sharing applications, such as Snapchat and Instagram, also use facial recognition software to map a person’s face and overlay filters and features. Facial recognition may also be used in work environments to control access to sensitive information and authorized areas. 

Pros and Cons of Facial Recognition

Since facial recognition is becoming more widely used, it is important to note the benefits and detriments of the technology, and its impact on society and the law. Some pros include:

Although facial recognition bears many perks, there are also a few drawbacks. Some cons include:

Future of Facial Recognition and Regulation

Based on studies by the Pew Research Center, 59% of Americans approve facial recognition as a law enforcement solution. The most recent, widespread use of the technology occurred after the Capital riot on January 6, 2021. The FBI used facial recognition to identity and arrest the individuals involved in the coup. Accordingly, DHS has plans to use surveillance on 91% of departing passenger flights by 2023.

There are currently no federal laws to regulate the use of facial recognition, but several bills have been proposed. In 2020, Portland, Oregon banned facial recognition in public and private areas, such as restaurants, stores, and public gathering spaces. Portland, Maine also passed a city ordinance banning the use of facial surveillance on members of the public, and the ordinance imposes a fee upon those in violation. Additionally, several states such as Illinois, Vermont, and New Jersey have filed lawsuits in relation to the use of facial recognition software. 

Facial recognition provides safety and security. However, its advancement also raises personal and legal concerns. While the future of facial recognition is uncertain, it is clear that as the United States moves toward federal privacy laws, facial recognition and the associated technology will encounter regulatory measures. 

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