By now you’re probably familiar with at least a few news stories surrounding the development, proliferation, and unnerving real-world applications of facial recognition technology. China has been reported to have been testing facial recognition software embedded in CCTV cameras and head-mounted displays worn by police officers. In the US, the American Civil Liberties Union got hold of public records that revealed that Amazon has been actively marketing its facial recognition software to law enforcement agencies.
Those are extreme examples, but it’s hard not to feel cautious around facial recognition in general – the technology inherently bestows too much power upon its operators.
In recent news, a company called Blink Identity raised $1.5 Million “for secure facial recognition at scale” as the press release read. Unfortunately, the word ‘secure’ here is almost immediately offset by ‘at scale’.
Blink Identity was founded by Mary Haskett and Dr. Alex Kilpatrick. The pair has “experience developing biometric identification technology for the Department of Defense uniquely qualifies them to lead the charge,” according to Jordan Fudge Sinai Ventures, one of the lead investors in the company.
Blink Identity provides ‘identity-in-motion’, the ability to almost instantly identify people at full walking speed using facial recognition. The product is focused on the the commercial sector, particularly on entertainment venues.
Users can opt to take a selfie when they buy their ticket online. The picture is stored and used to identify the buyer through AI-enable cameras set up at the entrance of a particular show. This means that there will be no more queuing (for those that opt-in at least), no more ticket tearing, no more phone swiping, barcode or QR code scanning. Pretty neat.
In fact the technology solves for a couple of different problems. Provided that everyone opts in, the solution would put an end to black market ticket sales. If your face doesn’t match the face that sat behind the device while making the purchase, you’re simply not going in. As we mentioned, this would only work if opting in was mandatory. The downside however would be that buying tickets for your friends would become a hassle – no more surprises. You could perhaps use their image, but I’m not so sure they’d be very happy about you uploading their face onto the internet without their consent. Ticket buying bots would be rendered useless as well.
The same technology could be applied for cashless transactions at the event. You could literally pay with your face for merchandise.
Security could also be improved. The same cameras can scan for suspected individuals. But this means that the system would somehow have to be integrated with databases from law enforcement agencies. And we’re not too keen about that.
This has already actually happened. There has already been two instances in China of men arrested at concerts using facial recognition powered security cameras installed at the venue. A third person was arrested at the Qingdao International Beer Festival in the same manner.
The benefits of facial recognition technology are evident for everyone but as sad as it is to admit, it is hard to think of a scenario where the elevated risk of compromise doesn’t make us anxious. What are your thoughts on the issue? Is it worth it? Let us know in the comments below.