Advocacy group raises privacy concerns as facial recognition technology booms

Safety, efficiency and profitability are touted as the key drivers behind the growing popularity of digital ID technologies like facial recognition, but they present important privacy risks, Calgary-based legal advocacy organization Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) reveals in a new report.

The technology performs identity verification through comparison of digital images or video frames with the stored facial images within a database, noted.

“The facial geometry comprises features like the nose’s width, the distance between the eyes, and the distance between the forehead and chin,” a recent report by further explained. “These measurements are used to create the mathematical formula known as a ‘facial signature.’ The stored signature compares their face’s physical structure to confirm an individual’s identity.”

The JCCF argues that such digital ID programs “undermine the inviolate personality or human dignity of their users,” adding, “The intimate or interior lives of human beings cannot be captured by a catalogue of facts about them.”

It added that digital ID technologies like facial recognition, biometrics, artificial intelligence, and even social credit, structurally disadvantage individuals when they do not know when their information is collected, stored, or used, which erodes the possibility for informed consent.

“When such technologies are combined with (a) insufficiently robust privacy laws and (b) institutional apathy about the value of informational privacy, Canadians stand to lose,” the JCCF affirmed.

But adoption remains high as government agencies, the travel industry, and the retail sector move to capitalize the advantages of digital ID programs, including increased productivity and less human interference.

The same report showed that the market for facial recognition technology is set to reach over US$19 billion by 2032, with the access control segment accounting for 36 per cent of global revenue in 2022.

Security software technology company VSBLTY announced on Tuesday that it is replacing all traditional office access systems, including key cards, key fobs, and digital passwords, with facial recognition technology.

The company says that the advanced facial recognition technology, which has, so far, been deployed in its Mexico headquarters building, enables employees to enter the workplace without physical checkpoints, while CCTV cameras and AI-backed software verify their status. If the system identifies an unauthorized person, or a terminated, problematic employee, building security is notified immediately. 

“Employees forgetting passwords, losing keycards and fobs can be both an administrative nightmare and a financial burden for corporations,” pointed out VSBLTY chief executive Jay Hutton. “This deployment of our AI-based Vector product for access control and building security alleviates many issues inherent in traditional access control systems.”

The program also triggers alerts when weapons or suspicious behaviours are detected, the company underscored.

The JCCF acknowledged that criminals will take advantage of privacy protections to reduce the chance of getting caught and prosecuted, but contends that this should not “serve as a pretext for violating the privacy, security, autonomy and dignity of an on-the-whole law-abiding population.”

The report stressed that when digital ID programs peer into people’s personal, intimate spaces, the human being is treated as an object for study, analysis, and prediction. The intangible value of privacy, the JCCF affirmed, pales in comparison to the tangible value of digital ID technologies like facial recognition in areas such as convenience or national security, but that does not mean privacy is valueless.

Today, the value of privacy has no advocate in modern public policy debates,” the organization said. “Its value is unappreciated and, therefore, undefended.”

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Ashee Pamma
Ashee Pamma
Ashee is a writer for ITWC. She completed her degree in Communication and Media Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. She hopes to become a columnist after further studies in Journalism. You can email her at [email protected]

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