Facial Recognition No Longer A Sc-Fi Plot

New Technological Measures May Change the World


Cameras are everywhere now. And so might be your image.  

The technology known as a facial recognition system is capable of identifying or varying someone’s identity from a stored digital image. It is classified as a biometric artificial intelligence, as it can identify a person by analyzing patterns in facial textures and body shape; or simply, compares facial features through it’s databases. 

 With all the technological advancements over the last few years,  finding people has never been easier. But how much privacy does one really have? 

Law enforcement officials are using thus technology often. This is not a new technology, but it is new to civilians. Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have been using pictures to solve crimes for years. Mostly it is a video of people through security cameras or by photos from witnesses and outside sources.  Though with today’s new technology, a video or picture can be taken on a phone and within seconds, the searcher can find other similar pictures that lead to who that person is. 

There are over 100 million Americans who are in the facial recognition system today. 

Mercy College joined the facial recognition wave and had a Residential Assistant event hosted by Alexus LAST NAME. This event was called “The Digital Footprint” and was held on Feb. 24 in Hudson Hall second-floor lounge.

Held with the intention to raise awareness of how protected your information truly is, each person wrote their name on a little piece of paper and put it in a hat. Then each person chose the name of the other and looked it up on their phone.

It showcased just how much can be discovered from a simple Google search. Twitter, Instagram, other social media photos, and even personal information were all able to be accessed in a few seconds.

Alexus reemphasized the point, “You have no say in what people can find out about you. You have no privacy, and it’s important for people to know more about their role with social media and how to make information more private.”

Alexus plans on doing another event soon so more students can come and learn about how privacy should be important to them. 

Facial recognition is supposed to be used for law enforcement to make it easier to solve violent crimes and see if there are any witnesses to have proof of specific crimes. Former New York Police Department policeman, Ronald Schudde, shared some of his opinions on facial recognition and the benefits that come with it. 

“I don’t see a problem with facial recognition. I believe that it is a way to keep everyone safe and solve crimes quicker to help the victims. Why wouldn’t people want us to use it?”

Facial recognition has been a back-and-forth debate between whether it is an invasion of privacy or helpful to our communities and citizens. UCLA had openly advocated for it on the campus, but later pulled the plug after backlash about privacy. 

Like most creations that are designed to have one purpose, it can be turned and twisted for other means. Meaning, although facial recognition was intended for law enforcement, other people are now getting hold of these applications and different ways to use facial recognition.

While most people think they might not apply, they may already be part of a database. The most popular outlet that uses it is Facebook. Unlike your iPhone and apps using your face to unlock your passcodes, Facebook’s facial recognition differs from that. According to Facebook, face recognition is used to analyze photos they think you are in. Those photos then go into a template and recognize your facial features and almost every photo you have been in is in that template. Each template has a number, and they do not share these templates with anyone. A lot of Facebook users are having a problem with this feature.

Though Facebook allows it, there are a lot of social media apps that are asking certain apps to not use their pictures from their site for facial recognition. There is an app, Clearview, which helps law enforcement with facial recognition. It runs all pictures through the 3 billion available internet photos. 

Clearview has received cease-and-desist letters from social media outlets such as YouTube, Google, LinkedIn, and Venmo. Twitter has also stepped in and has asked the owner of the app to please stop taking photos from their site.

CEO of the Clearview app, Hoan Ton-That, says that he wants people to trust him. 

“You have to remember that this is only used for investigations after the fact. This is not a 24/7 surveillance system.” 

The problem that people have with this app mostly stems from the thought of how easy it is to find a person on the internet.  But just like everything that has one specific purpose, it can have a purpose for other enterprises.  It is easy for people to get an app that is similar and can use this to find information about innocent people, which can in the long run cause crimes. 

Yet on Feb. 26, Clearview suffered its first data breach. It’s client list was stolen but claims no images or information was taken. 

“Security is Clearview’s top priority,” Tor Ekeland, attorney for Clearview AI said in a statement. “Unfortunately, data breaches are part of life in the 21st century. Our servers were never accessed. We patched the flaw, and continue to work to strengthen our security.”

The Attorney General of New Jersey, Gurbir Grewal, has banned New Jersey law enforcement from using the technology. Earlier in February, Cleariew was sued in a class-action lawsuit in a New York federal court for illegally “taking biometric information without their content,” said a report by Fox News.  

ICE has also been known to use facial recognition in it’s policing activities. Tech apps are now creating filters to hide identity, and one company has actually made a mask called Resting Risk Face to prevent from being classified. 

It has also spread to the U.K. and other parts of the world. Expect facial recognition to be implemented near the the border and at train stations and airports. 

Other companies, like FaceFirst, are promoting this technology to retailers. Set up a camera in the business, and if someone has stolen something or caused a disturbance, the system will notify the business owner. 

Yet some say the risk to your privacy is not worth it’s results, as least not yet. According to a report by Vox,  A 2019 independent review by the University of Essex found that “only one in five matches by the Metropolitan Police’s system was considered accurate.”

One way to make yourself more private is to put all of your social media accounts in a private setting. It makes it much harder for people to find you, especially with facial recognition. Though, there is no true way of protecting yourself, protecting your social media might just protect you.