Why do some people mistrust facial recognition? This has been a very topical issue for some time. Often discussed (and rightfully so) is algorithm accuracy, bias in the algorithms, lack of standards and concerns of misuse. All these issues absolutely need to be addressed.
However, there are vocal groups focussed on privacy that are well intentioned in their vociferous opposition to this technology. They perform a vital role; the industry has learned from them greatly and continues to make significant adjustments and improvements because of their opposition.
But no matter how far industry goes to address these concerns, it may never be far enough for them. Some revel in the inaccuracies, biases and lack of standards, as it provides a focal point of opposition. And the more accurate, standardised and unbiased the technology becomes, the more it will be opposed, not less.
So why do some people mistrust facial recognition? My epiphany, which surprised me, was that it is not the technology that is mistrusted.
It is the police, governments and authorities that people mistrust; the users of the technology, not the technology itself.
Society has become increasingly polarised. Conspiracy theorists abound. Many simply don’t want this technology in the hands of the authorities, especially if its flaws are resolved.
Many of these concerns are well founded. There is a sufficient track record of misuse of tools and abuse of authority to warrant the imposition of and adherence to publicly agreed best practices and the holding of our authorities to account.
Whilst industry can and should make strides in addressing these issues and improving the technology, industry itself cannot resolve this. It is a societal conundrum that requires a societal debate, but I fear it is unlikely this mistrust will be assuaged anytime soon in a society that embraces division and polarisation.
In the interim, facial recognition has the potential to significantly enhance public safety and improve efficiency. It would be a shame to throw this opportunity away.
Almost any technology can be used for bad as well as good; facial recognition is not alone in this respect.
If we really don’t trust our authorities, what other tools should we take away from them?