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How facial recognition affects our privacy

30.01.2023
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Facial recognition is a modern, advanced technology by which intelligent devices can identify a person from an image. It is hard to disagree that the introduction of this technology into the everyday life of individuals and society can be very useful. For example, it can greatly simplify the work of law enforcement. However, let's reflect on how much facial recognition can affect our rights to privacy and confidentiality.

Privacy is one of the biggest concerns. The threat to privacy primarily comes from the companies involved in collecting and storing biometric data, as this is what creates the risk of loss or theft of this data.

Facial recognition is a threat to personal privacy

Yes, we all understand why this technology is needed and the benefits it brings to security, police and other law enforcement agencies. In that sense, facial recognition serves the purpose of protecting us citizens from all kinds of criminals and intruders and also benefits society. But that doesn't stop us from questioning the usefulness of the technology to the law-abiding average citizen, because facial recognition entails a huge risk of loss of individual privacy.

Civil rights organizations and privacy advocates around the world have consistently opposed the development and use of surveillance and surveillance technology. They argue that facial recognition, as it stands today, violates the individual's right to privacy and confidentiality. The daily use of credit cards, cell phones and other gadgets already allows the monitoring of all of our activities. If someone says, "I'm not doing anything like that, I have nothing to fear, let anyone who wants to watch," then any security professional will tell you that's a dangerous misconception.

What's dangerous is that facial recognition can be used not only to identify individuals, but also to detect other personal information (photos, blog posts, social media profiles, online behavior and areas of interest, habitual travel routes, and so on). But what's most frightening is that we don't know who is watching us, when and why.

This fundamentally changes the politics of everyday privacy, allowing any government agent or random stranger to secretly collect the personal information of anyone captured by facial recognition. At present, ordinary people simply have no way of knowing who is collecting their personal information and, more importantly, how it will be used in the future. This method of information collection does not imply that a person has to consent to the use of their personal information, or, more likely, not abuse it.

Needless to say, maintaining privacy and confidentiality is a huge problem of our time. Facial recognition, as a modern technology used by major companies like Google or Apple, can be seen as mass surveillance of the public.
Facial recognition, as discussed above, is most often used either by law enforcement for public safety purposes or by large companies that want to attract potential customers.

But can we know if someone is trying to identify us from a photo or video? It's unfortunate, but most government agencies and private companies don't want to accept that they should always ask permission first before obtaining and using this type of data.

Then do we ordinary people have any rights to individual privacy at all? Well, in Europe, companies must first get your permission before using facial recognition technology for commercial purposes. That's why Facebook decided not to offer its photo-sharing app in EU countries. In the U.S., only two states (Illinois and Texas) supported the European approach. In the U.K., the Data Protection Act stipulates that citizens must be informed when and under whose surveillance they are. Also, they have the right to request and receive any recorded images.

This, of course, does not solve the problem of privacy, as it is almost impossible to know when and how our images are used and whether our right to privacy is respected. The possibilities for digital surveillance are ever-increasing and many have little faith that regulators will ever be able to develop laws to strike the right balance.

While facial recognition may increasingly pose a threat to our privacy every day, there are some ways to reduce the risks. First of all, make sure that your own devices are inaccessible to any intruder on the Internet. If you use a VPN, you will have privacy, at least from your own devices. However, we recommend that you use social media with caution; don't use your real name to do so. Your friends will still know it's you, but you don't need to make it easy for governments, business corporations or hackers.