FACIAL recognition gets an upgrade in a mask wearing era but could it be a step too far in data collection and invasion of privacy?
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, almost everyone has a differing viewpoint surrounding the use of masks, and to be more precise, other people’s use of masks.
Mask shaming has become second nature to many people, despite their lack of knowledge of an individual’s person situation. In a number of countries worldwide it is now mandatory to wear masks while outside of your home environment, however it is important ot highlight that that is not the case everywhere.
These restrictions have been followed by police fines and public shaming of individuals that do not comply with the regulations, regardless of person circumstance.
With this on the rise and stories from China, in the initially stages painting a poor picture of the situation, tech guru, Akash Takyar, decided to work to assist with the problem in a more efficient manner.
Takyar believes in the use of masks for curbing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic however thought that a more productive and effective means could be made available, taking the fear and concern out of the hands of the public.
Taykar, owner of his own tech company based out of San Francisco, is now leading the way in mask covered facial recognition technology. Traditional face recognition technology works with algorithms that analyse all available data from a picture or video of a face and then match them to a data-based faces, much like the way that finger printing works.
However, since the start of the global pandemic, traditional facial recognition software has been completely baffled by the new situation and has not been able to keep up.
With face mask compliance in some demographics being varied Taykar saw the opportunity to develop new technology that would take into account face coverings and still be able to give an accurate identification of the individual. This would take pressure out of the hands of law enforcement and enable automatic fines or non-compliance notifications to be distributed.
Facial recognition gets an upgrade as, normally, facial recognition technology studies the features around the eyes, mouth, ears and nose to identify individual characteristics and match it to an appropriate database, which could be your image stored on your phone to unlock it or a criminal database.
Companies, such a Taykar’s, are now developing software that utilise different parameters on the face to enable them to identify members of the public even with a mask firmly in place. Such companies state that they want to help the community with this technology whether the application is for police assistance of a face mask covered criminal or identifying those causing a public health concern.
However, it is clear to understand why there is also a side of the argument that thinks this is a further step into the invasion our privacy.
The chief technology officer of Tryolabs said, “If we can compute the number [of people who are complying with the mask mandates], people can make policies and monitor on whether or not they need to do another campaign to push mask usage,”
They continued, “Or if people start getting bored about COVID, and start not wearing masks, then there might need to be more publicity to make people aware.”
The worrying problem is that these private companies will soon have a database that is so full of private data that people are concerned about what this data may be used for or how it ultimately may be sold to.
However, Taykar is adamant that is for the protection of the public, stating, “If you’re in Times Square and there’s no social distancing, what do you do with that data? Would you want to put their photo on the billboards?”
Ultimately time will tell how this new stage in facial recognition software may develop but for the moment it has left many as sceptical as it has converted to the cause.
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