Let’s face it – IT’s not always a fair cop
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Let’s face it – IT’s not always a fair cop

Let’s face it – IT’s not always a fair cop

Posted on 16th May 2019

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Facial Recognition Technology graphic

We have written before on our blog pages about facial recognition technology (FRT), particularly with regards to the abuse of the software and the concomitant risks from its failure to work properly.   This is graphically illustrated by a story in the Telegraph’s tech pages yesterday.

It was only a few weeks ago that we heard of the dreadful bombings in Sri Lanka.  Every sane person will support the Sri Lankan authorities in their efforts to find the perpetrators, but for Amara Majeed, an American student with Sri Lankan parents, one of these efforts resulted in a personal nightmare. 

In the middle of her final exams, she woke one morning to find dozens of missed calls on her phone and a host of death threats on her social media pages.  Her “crime” was to have been identified by facial recognition technology by the police in Sri Lanka, who has compounded their error by publishing her photograph, thus leading to the death threats, calls, etc. Needless to say, the FRT was wrong and as a result an innocent woman has suffered greatly.

In the UK, the Telegraph reports, a number of police forces, including South Wales, the Met and Leicestershire, have been trialling facial recognition. In Scotland, the Herald newspaper raised concerns, citing over 400 uses of the technology back in 2015, while The Scotsman flagged similar worries just over a year ago about the use of iris recognition technology. 

The Telegraph article noted that the police in San Francisco (the heart of the world’s tech industry) have banned the use of FRT and “new surveillance technologies used by police (has) to pass a rigorous public review process, involving community consultation. Facial recognition, however, is considered too intrusive and has been banned entirely.”

All of which raises the question of whether we should be quite so enthusiastic to be going so quickly down this route in the UK?  Technology, as we know from our daily conversations with talented individuals and firms, is marvellous stuff, but that does not mean we should simply submit to its ubiquitous use without any safeguards where, given the current problems with FRT, they are clearly required. 

Nikola Kelly, MD, Be-IT


Posted in News, Opinion

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