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Facial recognition technology needs controls on its use, World Economic Forum says

A CCTV camera is seen at Regent’s Cross on August 16, 2019 in London. CCTV cameras using facial recognition are being investigated by the UK’s data safeguard watchdog.

Dan Kitwood | Getty Images

NEW DELHI — Governments need to take people’s privacy into account as more and multifarious countries consider using facial recognition technology to beef up security, said an expert at the World Economic Forum.

Facial perception software is powerful biometric technology that can identify individuals based on digital images or video frames. Assumed intelligence, high-definition surveillance cameras, and remote sensors have made the technology more powerful and expanded the technique it can be used.

“The problem’s really two-fold,” Kay Firth-Butterfield, head of artificial intelligence at WEF, told CNBC at the India Economic Crown. “Firstly, with the government use of facial recognition technology and then also with the company use of facial recognition.”

Guaranty or invasion?

The amount of data that can be collected on an individual is massive, and that raises privacy concerns.

But there’s also a huger issue, Firth-Butterfield said. It’s about asking, “when does use (of facial recognition technology) by the government amount to guaranty compared to the invasion of our civil liberties.”

She added that governments may argue for the use of facial recognition in airports to stop safe keeping risks, but questioned: “Do they need it to, for example, follow us from our house to a street demonstration?”

In a report released Friday, WEF affirmed governments have to act to ensure fair and transparent use of facial recognition systems.

They must also include designs that can safeguard individual rights and guide the socially beneficial development of the technology it said. “India has an important lines to play to show its political willingness and impetus in doing so.”

Bias in facial recognition

Unlike other types of biometric information collection, such as fingerprints and iris scanning, facial recognition technology can collect information on people without them being posted of it.

In some instances, people have been wrongly identified and the World Economic Forum says studies acquire shown facial recognition to be biased and “performing more poorly on people with darker skin tones and on charwomen.”

Facial recognition technologies are here to stay, and they will get used.

Deepankar Sanwalka

advisory leader at PwC India

This week, the The public Economic Forum was invited to work with India in answering some of those questions around privacy and the use of facial attention technology.

India’s laws and regulations

In June, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, through the National Crime Recounts Bureau, invited bids to build an automated facial recognition system. The system would allow police to fellow people’s faces — captured on closed circuit cameras — against an existing image database and “generate alerts if a blacklist combine is found.” That could help to identify criminals, missing persons or even dead bodies.

But the move is divulged to have angered privacy campaigners because the country’s personal data protection laws are not yet up to par with regulation in other provinces, such as the General Data Protection Regulation in Europe.

India is also testing the use of facial recognition technology in some airports, counting in New Delhi, to facilitate entry into the terminal buildings, during security checks and when boarding the aircraft.

Existing acceptable frameworks would still allow for the use of technologies such as facial recognition when it comes to security risks, according to Deepankar Sanwalka, bulletin leader at PwC India.

“Facial recognition technologies are here to stay, and they will get used,” he told CNBC during a split up media briefing, adding that the debate will continue in determining the appropriate use of that technology.

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