Facial recognition: definition, advantages and limits

Identity control, authorization of access to services, disease detection… Facial recognition opens up the field of possibilities in the professional environment. If its advantages are multiple, the technology raises various questions, in particular with regard to the protection of personal data.

What is facial recognition?

Facial recognition is a artificial intelligence technology (AI) offering the possibility of analyzing people’s facial features using algorithms and comparing them to images stored in a database. From a digital image or a live video stream, it is therefore possible:

  • To authenticate an individual, in other words to verify that it is indeed who he claims to be;
  • To identify a person, that is to say to find a person within a group.

The biometric facial recognition system should not be confused with face detection determining the presence, or not, of a face in an image without being interested in its identity.

Facial recognition: advantages…

Facial recognition has various advantages, starting with a security enhancement. The trivialization of cyberattacks is proof of this: traditional digital identification techniques, such as passwords, have their limits in protecting sensitive information. As explained above, facial recognition secures connections by allowing to authenticate/identify a person. At the national level, artificial intelligence technology can even help identify terrorists or other criminals.

Next to that, data processing is very fast, almost instantaneous, which is of real interest to companies. Another advantage and not the least: its reliability. It is indeed difficult to deceive technology. A facial recognition device is also easy to use and integrates quite easily into an organization since the majority of solutions are compatible with current security software.

… but also disadvantages

The risks do exist, however, in particular the risks of violations of individual freedoms (threats to privacy, freedom of assembly, demonstration, etc.). Moreover, in countries where personal freedoms are limited (China, North Korea, Iran, etc.), it is customary to use facial recognition to spy on citizens and make arrests, something which, fortunately, is not tolerated in France.

Facial recognition also offers opportunities for fraud and other crimes, in case of hacking. In addition, the risk of errors, although minimal, remains possible due to possible flaws in the technology, the angles of the cameras, the level of lighting or the quality of the image. However, it is a safe bet that facial recognition will continue to develop in the years to come. As technologies improve, the challenges will narrow.

(Photo credit: iStock)

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