Many smartphones these days have advanced facial recognition software to make them easier to get into, and in theory more secure also. While this technology may be convenient, how it works and whether or not it can actually pose a threat to you is unclear to many users. Let’s dive into what this technology is, how it works, and the potential threats it may pose.
Facial Recognition technology is a family of software that uses a variety of approaches to take raw incoming video data, and interpret it into information regarding the identity of people within the frame of that video data. This has been an ongoing problem explored by the field of computer science for as long as the field has existed.
The problem is rather complex. Human beings are instinctually exceptionally good at interpreting highly minimal data and understanding that data to represent a face. Typically, humans are also exceptionally good at connecting those faces, representational or pictorial, to identities. Machines have none of these instincts, and trying to code a set of algorithms to do this task has been a challenge for decades.
There are multiple approaches to this technology, and it can take multiple forms. On a phone, since the targets are usually within two or three feet, the software doesn’t usually have to make as many guesses about missing information. Instead, modern day phones make use of a 3-dimensional recognition approach.
These systems create a 3D model using complex spatial and motion sensors of a user’s face. You can think of this as a “digital mask.” To unlock your phone, you have to match within a certain level of accuracy the mask as it exists within the system.
Most people walk outside broadcasting their face to the world all the time. Why would this be any different?
Well, even though people can see and recognize your face, they don’t download it and put it in a database. Normal people aren’t connected to a complex network of data sharing where information harvested from one source is then dispersed and sold around.
If you willingly give your face to your phone, there’s no telling where it will end up.
Additionally, facial recognition is growing in prominence in other sectors. Things like security networks and government surveillance in addition to smartphones crop up every few months. Why give these groups a head start in recording you in their systems, and keeping tabs on you wherever you go?