When it comes to biometrics, facial recognition technology is one of the more divisive talking points. The debate often centres around consent and the lack of transparency as to when and where the technology is in place.

While the benefits of facial recognition software is clear to see, with it proving particularly effective in facilitating payments, authentication and access to physical spaces, there is still a growing concern that one never knows when the proverbial big brother is watching.

Things need not descend into a Orwellian military state with Gemalto’s Innovation Labs VP, Raphaël de Cormis, noting that “web cookies” might provide an example of how facial recognition can be better implemented and controlled in real-life scenarios.

If facial recognition technologies are indeed going to be the future of biometric security, as it is currently billed, then it needs to effectively negotiate the requirement of individual consent, notes de Cormis.

“One must remember that there are differences in terms of regulations governing private and public spaces. For example, in France, there are clear rules governing the use of video surveillance. Transportation companies are not allowed to store information collected by video surveillance, and there must be clear, visible notification that cameras are in use in any area protected by such technology. The good news is that there is a real surge in such regulations in order to ensure proper transparency and data storage or deletion, and to establish who has the right to access and manage any relevant databases,” he points out.

In order to assist with the surge in regulations and desire for greater transparency, de Cormis highlights cookies as a good framework.

“When online, we accept that our activity may be traced and analysed in order to facilitate interaction, and we have rights and choices in that respect. Similarly, biometrics have the potential to be used like cookies are on the web, in order to improve our user experience in real life,” explains de Cormis.

While a framework modelled on web cookies could certainly help address the issue of transparency and consent for facial recognition technology, another issue that will undoubtedly crop up is the lack of a universal legal standard.

The laws and regulations around data usage in Europe differs to that in the US and here in South Africa, for example. Add to this the type of disclosing one must do when recording someone, and there is no clearly defined set of rules for things can be implemented and regulated.

As such if biometric security in public and private spaces, such as facial recognition technology, is going to become an accepted societal norm, it needs to adhere to an agreed upon standard that can be enforced and monitored, according to de Cormis.

“Any new technology as powerful as biometrics can be welcomed only when it is deployed and implemented within a legislative framework that is respected by most countries, to consolidate strong common foundations. Without a legal and responsible framework, facial recognition is something upon which we will never agree,” he concludes.


[Image – CC0 Pixabay]