The technological trend that is facial recognition and biometrics has started to dominate every aspect of human life. Biometric identification can be seen in smartphones, as users open their lock screen through iris and fingerprint scanners. It is also used in airports to help officials identify flyers, it is used by law enforcement to catch bad guys, and now, a professor from Malaysia has developed a facial recognition system to track student’s attendance in class and their real-time location on campus.
The groundbreaking development was made by Dr. Noradila Nordin, a lecturer from Universiti Utara Malaysia’s (UUM) School of Computing (SOC). She was able to develop a system that could track students’ attendance on campus, rendering the traditional way of sign in and sign out attendance forms obsolete.
“[Translated] The system is under construction. It is hoped that this system can be adopted in the near future as facial recognition methods can facilitate the detection of student attendance to the classroom,” said Dr. Nordin.
“It’s not easy for us to develop this prototype of the system as it involves the recognition of the faces of many students,” she added.
A facial recognition technology has the capability of identifying people based on the unique features of their faces. In general, they work by comparing selected facial features from a given image with faces within a database.
Dubbed as the Smart Attendance System, the technology developed by Dr. Nordin is also capable of tracking student’s real-time location within the campus. The system works by utilizing existing images from a given database to accurately log a student’s presence in class and their location on the campus.
“The student’s face picture will be used to match the photos in the database. If a similar picture is found, the student will be marked as present in the class,” she said.
The ingenuity of Dr. Nordin’s development with the help of her student, 25-year-old Nurul Husna Mohd Fauzi, the smart attendance system has been awarded a silver medal in the recently concluded 2019 Innovative Research, Invention, and Application Exhibition (I-RIA).
Facial recognition and security and privacy
There is an ongoing discussion both in online and offline spaces regarding the growth of facial recognition technology and its implications on privacy and human rights. As the technology that allows both the government and private entities like businesses to spy on citizens becomes commonplace, many have raised concerns on the potential of the system to be used in violations of people’s right to privacy and how this can heighten the existing tension between marginalized individuals and law enforcement.
It is, however, essential to characterize that in most cases, facial recognition technologies are used out of good intentions. The problem is that while it is helpful in so many aspects of human lives, it is also available to people with ill intent and criminal minds, more so, it is also accessible to any authoritarian government’s disposal.
Human rights activists have warned that the premise behind facial recognition technology is problematic in itself. Organizations that have access to it can track and recognize people without their consent. As the technology grows every day, privacy advocates are afraid that existing regulations to control and direct the power that comes from it cannot keep up with the pace with which it is growing and could have devastating effects.
Amid the volatility of the technology and the compounding risks associated with the unregulated use of facial recognition, it is empirical for both the government and the manufacturers to police the usage of this innovation.
San Francisco, being one of the technology capitals of the world, has recently become the first U.S. city to ban authorities from using facial recognition technology for law enforcement. Because of the red flags raised by different sectors against the use of facial recognition technology, San Francisco is considering to ban it from being used by the police and other city government agencies against their people. The ban could potentially ignite similar legislation from different cities, states, and even the federal government.