Facial Recognition Systems Are Using Your Face For Training

Facial Recognition uses your face for training and developmentPhoto By: NEC Corporation of America/Flickr

AI-driven facial recognition is on the rise. We’re starting to see useful and accurate results with the iPhone X and on those cute SnapChat filters. So let’s ask, how far will big tech companies go with facial recognition? 

Facial recognition is a tool to accurately identify a face and, correspondingly, differentiate it with others—to distinguish your face amongst billions of other fronts.

To achieve this accuracy, facial recognition algorithms need to be heavily trained with at least hundreds of thousands of photos of faces. But, who has the time to take images of a million faces? 

Companies like Yahoo, Facebook, and YouTube, to name a few, all have our data—our faces, which other institutions like the IBM are apparently using to develop algorithms for more successful and precise facial recognition.

Most of the time, using a free public platform such as Facebook, we usually pay using the personal information we share on the platform, which they typically sell to advertisers. But, a new form of revenue rises where they’re using our faces to develop facial recognition systems. 

Initially, facial recognition algorithms are trained using the faces of people who are willing to be part of the research. You go into the facility and have your photo taken from different angles and lighting. But that’s time-consuming and costly. 

Moreover, the faces the technology used was intended to train from celebrities and famous people, who conveniently allows people to save and use their photos. 

Today, however, companies are using faces of ordinary people. 

This action is a serious and dangerous fact, as we are then convenient targets for surveillance and exploitation. Imagine being recognized by every camera that comes your way, in today’s society, that’s a lot of cameras to hide from. 

Currently, it is reported that the IBM had in possession of over a million photos of ordinary people in its database but failed to inform the holders that they’re pictures are being used to develop facial recognition algorithms, NBC reports.

The photos are said to be retrieved from Flickr’s database of photos, which parent company, Yahoo, claims are gathered for research purposes. 

Photos from Flickr are covered by the Creative Commons license, which allows other researchers and organizations to utilize images for their research, and some of these licenses allow companies to profit commercially. 

The underlying problem, however, is that the threat of being exposed to technologies that are still even in development. It poses a threat to individual safety and privacy. 

IBM, itself is notorious for selling surveillance equipment to the government, which usually violates civil liberties.

To make matters worse, IBM is not the first and, most likely, the last to adopt these kinds of measures in developing their technology. 

One of the most alarming issues that arise from face recognition technology about using ordinary, even famous, people’s faces is the apparent threat of face swapping capabilities.

It’s like SnapChat’s face swap filter where your face is placed on another person’s body. It’s all fun because it creates a very rough image, sometimes smoother but overall needs more improvement.

However, recent technological breakthroughs are astonishingly realistic. 

The video above is a Stanford study demonstrating how facial recognition allows one person’s facial actions, nuances, and even the blinking of the eyes to a computer-generated face. 

The group presented this at Siggraph 2018, who knows how much further they have taken to improve this technology.

Moreover, the same technology is also being used by novice programmers to produce the so-called “deep fakes,” where faces of celebrities are swapped on to adult video content stars.

Imagine having that technology to manipulate people, companies, governments, and even countries to serve a specific agenda. 

The technology poses a threat to people who are hardly made aware of, more less how to mitigate and create solutions for it.

Facial recognition technology serves both sides. It is an essential security measures tool, at the same time, a possible threat.

There’s no stopping this technology from developing, and there’s no point in hiding it from the public either. Raising awareness on how this technology will affect our lives from now on serves an important role.

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