Global Tech Controversies: The Ethical Implications of Facial Recognition Software

How private can your life be? This is the question that is going to trouble the next generation. Not to say that there is no hope for all of us but the time to think about privacy is way past us. From your email ID to your birthday, most of it is lurking out there in the annals of the World Wide Web. 

The combination is deadly when you add your face into this mix. Yes, all of us enjoy sharing photos on social media sites with our friends. Some of us even have public profiles. As long as there is a conscious decision or consent involved, things are less tricky.

But imagine a scenario where tech giants have access to your personal information in the form of facial features and nuances due to the increasing use of facial recognition software. Can you trust operators examined by professionals to respect your rights? 

Facebook 2022 Facial Recognition Lawsuit

In May 2022, a lawsuit was filed by some users against the social media website Facebook alleging that it had prompted friends to tag people based on facial recognition data without their consent.

While the lawsuit was settled by Facebook and payouts made to the affected, the issue surrounding facial recognition software remains unaddressed. Individuals who were aggrieved may feel vindicated with such payouts but what about the ones who had no idea that their data was allegedly being used?

The net spreads wide – Google Photos and Shutterfly 

Facebook is not the only app-based company which faced a legal battle. Google Photos and Shutterfly are also in the process of settling similar class action suits in the state of Illinois, which reportedly has the strictest law in this respect. 

Why Do You Need To Be Concerned?

In the normal course of our lives, we move around with our faces exposed for the world to see (except for a mask). Any number of people may have seen our faces during the day, from the person who met you in the underground to the one who made your coffee. Why is it then an issue if a company has access to your facial data?

This is because while any number of people may have seen your face, not everyone can link that face with personally identifiable information like your name, date of birth, and gender. Companies who have access to all the above data are required to abide by data privacy laws and cannot use your facial data without your consent.

In this context, while it may seem innocuous that a social media site recommends to friends that a particular person is in the picture they have shared, it is something that should be of concern to people who are not consenting to the same. 

Ethical Concerns Regarding Facial Recognition

Any technological disruption brings together its fair share of concerns. The same is the case with Facial Recognition Software. While the convenience that stems from such software cannot be denied, consent is key here. 

The ethical concerns regarding facial recognition include not just fears of mass surveillance but also racial bias. Authorities in any jurisdiction need to be careful not to misuse facial data in order to identify people who indulge in so-called ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ behavior and start a witch hunt or moral policing. 

The presence of racial bias even in software cannot be wished away. Steps must be taken to sensitize technology as well as people developing it. 

Moreover, accuracy is equally important. Accuracy is crucial in the sense that access to services should not be denied at governmental or private organizations due to inaccurate or inefficient technology. The technology must give to manual systems when there are physical changes in human attributes. 

Final Word

At the end of the day, we must remember that our data is in our hands. If you wish to remain anonymous in the online world, you need to be aware of the fact that there is inexpensive facial recognition software available out there. Such software, if unregulated, can make you a data point even if you just take a step out in the sunshine.