Facial recognition under pressure

By capturing biometric characteristics, people can be identified quickly and easily — at least in theory. But most consumers are not comfortable with these authentication options, as a British survey once again shows. And facial recognition may even lose additional popularity due to protests in the U.S.

Already, only 31 percent of Britons have no major concerns about having to identify themselves using this method, Specops Software found in a survey. The discomfort is only greater when the focus is on the user's own eye: just eleven percent of users are comfortable with iris or retina scans. At least 42 percent feel comfortable with fingerprint matching, with voice recognition coming in at 44 percent.

However, more traditional methods are clearly superior to biometrics in this regard. Hardly any fears are shown by 53 percent for signatures, 66 percent for SMS authentication, 72 percent for tokens and 78 percent for classic passwords. For the figures, the security experts at Specops Software surveyed a total of 3.740 British citizens.

Racial technology?

Meanwhile, the problems of facial recognition are once again in the spotlight, as the likes of Amazon, Microsoft and IBM are either temporarily or completely suspending their cooperation with U.S. law enforcement on the technology. The companies' systems have long been criticized for, among other things, identifying the typical white male far more accurately than people of other skin colors or women. In the context of the current debate on racism, this of course seems even more explosive than when the relevant study data is published.

Minor retreat

As a result, in a letter to the U.S. Congress, IBM had even announced that it would no longer offer universal facial recognition or analytics software. It strongly rejects and will not tolerate the use of technologies for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms, or for purposes inconsistent with its own values and principles of trust and transparency, the statement said. IBM's wording doesn't necessarily rule out the possibility that it will use facial recognition for more specific purposes after all. In addition, the company had already announced at the 12. September 2019 removed facial recognition methods from its Visual Recognition system.

Amazon and Microsoft are also more likely to focus on damage limitation. Both companies, according to media reports, are currently actively trying to steer legislation in the U.S. for the use of facial recognition in a more lenient direction — although the wrong kind of attention tends to do more harm than good. A U.S.-wide law, for example, could prevent stricter local rules such as banning the technology from all government bodies and services in San Francisco.

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