The morning outside is gloomy and damp, and I am enjoying my morning cuppa.
I have just finished setting up my new bank account.
Having been with my previous bank for 36 years, I thought that it was time for a change, especially as my old bank had consistently ripped me off over decades. Some of my money has been returned with a successful PPI claim, and now I am £175.00 better off, having switched my personal current account (Thanks Martin Lewis’s Money Saving Expert!) and have kicked the holder of the sign of the black horse out of my life. Now I just have one more account to move…
So, there I was, on the phone setting up my new account, when the automated system requested whether I would like to set up voice recognition to ease access to my account.
I accepted, as I know that my voiceprint is as unique to me as my fingerprints, or my facial biometric data.
It then struck me how much of my unique personal data is in the hands and care of a commercial organisation.
This got me thinking.
I have an E-Passport, which contains all of my facial biometric data. I access some of my personal electronic devices with my thumb print, or, in the case of my new phone, through facial recognition and a pin number.
This in itself is a little spooky, but at least the choice is mine to make.
I accept that Her Majesty’s Government will assume a full duty of care if they release my data, but with commercial organisations, maybe based overseas that may be more difficult to assume.
Since the development of Facial Recognition in the mid 1969s, it has become much more prevalent, and is found all over the world, including Great Britain.
China is now using facial recognition to constantly monitor its citizens, and the collected and identifiable data is being used to prosecute individuals for even minor misdemeanours such as Jay walking. This allows “behavioural scoring” and may be used to grade and rank citizens on their perceived support of the government.
Luckily, or not, depending on your persuasion, facial recognition does have a weakness. It requires capturing a clear image of a face before the system’s algorithms can plot the data, and compare it with images held in its database.
This weakness is being exploited. In Japan, a university has designed a pair of anti-facial-recognition glasses, which, when worn, emit a sea of Infra-Red light over the wearer’s face. This disrupts image capture, and results in the camera only “seeing” a blurred image.
There is also a mask available which is designed with multi-faceted angles and patterns that disrupt the received image, again, leading to blurred images.
If you thought that the potential for a dystopian disaster ended with facial recognition technology, there is more over the horizon.
As artificial intelligence develops, we may see an integration of facial recognition with emotion recognition technology, laying wide open an interpretation of our deepest innermost workings.
Currently Emotional Recognition technology is in its infancy, and there is as yet little evidence that shows a reliable and consistent interpretation of the emotional state of an individual, but this will change as AI develops further.
So – if we cover our faces, or wear IR spectacles, we will be able to fool the cameras, and go about our daily business without the state, or, other more sinister organisations tracking our every move and emotion.
Sadly, the answer is no.
Please welcome Gait Recognition Technology!
Gait recognition is another unique human characteristic. The way we walk, hold our body, and our profile and posture are as individual as a fingerprint – and it doesn’t need to capture a facial image.
Anyone like to guess where this technology is being developed?
Whoever muttered “China”, take an extra 10 points.
Yes, a Chinese start-up called Watrix has already developed a system that can identify an individual from up to 50m (165 feet) away, regardless of whether they are facing the camera.
According to the company, the system can’t even be fooled by an individual adopting a limp, walking with splayed feet, or deliberately hunching or distorting their body as they walk.
This is made possible because the system analyses multiple features from all over an individual’s body.
Currently, due to system limitations, real-time gait analysis and confirmation of an individual’s identity is not possible.
Gait analysis requires video footage of the target, which allows the analytical software to process and store the individual’s way of walking.
Currently, video footage has to be uploaded into the system, and then analysed, a process that takes about 10 minutes to assess 60 minutes of video.
In due course, the processing requirements will improve to the point that real-time identification is possible.
According to Watrix, the system has a 94.1% accuracy rating, which is quite acceptable for commercial use.
No doubt this will also improve.
Meanwhile, governments in many societies are realising the dangers of uncontrolled use of personal data.
The EU has recently banned the use of facial recognition for three to five years to enable an assessment of the impacts of this technology and possible risk management measures that could be identified and developed
In the USA, larger cities, and even states are banning the use of Facial Recognition.
San Francisco banned it in May 2019, and later in 2019, Oakland followed suit, as did Somerville in Massachusetts, with Portland Oregon likely to follow suit.
But despite the EU-wide moratorium on the use of this technology, (and the fact that we are still, until 31st January a member of the EU) the Metropolitan Police have gone ahead with a project to use Facial Recognition.
It appears that under the EU/UK’s data protection law, GDPR, it forbids facial recognition by private companies “in a surveillance context without member states actively legislating an exemption into the law using their powers to derogate.”
It’s interesting to see that the system being used by London’s Met Police is subcontracted out to NEC, which, as far as I am aware is not only a private company, but also a foreign one.
Obviously, there are pros and cons to having some form of surveillance, and some sacrifices have to be made to ensure the safety and security of the public, but is this a bridge to far?
Only you can decide…