The advantages and risks of the use of biometric technology and its possible consequences


Applications for biometric technology and image recognition continue to grow by leaps and bounds, and while it is true that scanning your face is easier than remembering a password, it also presents important considerations as to whether convenience is worthwhile.

But while facial recognition technology has become widespread thanks to features such as Apple's Face ID and Windows Hello from Microsoft, now the focus is on the issues of cybersecurity and privacy, and who is really the owner of the information obtained to use it.

Now Facebook, among other companies, are finding questionable ways to use this new information. To get to the bottom of how dangerous this could be, we spoke with Theresa Payton, who was the White House Information Director during the presidency of George W. Bush. Now, Payton is deeply involved in the world of cybersecurity and has serious doubts about how Facebook intends to use technology.

Your face belongs to you ... or not?

Facial recognition technology has great potential, even in the world of cybersecurity. In the case of authentication, for example, it simplifies the blocking of devices and accounts for those who do not use more secure methods than a simple password, such as two-factor authentication. But, as Theresa Payton explained, there is a dark side to technology.

"I think there are many great things that could come out of this technology, but recent history tells us that we have to deal with worse case scenarios," Payton told Digital Trends. "We have to understand that new technologies will always be launched one or two years before we really understand the ramifications of protecting that data, as well as the legal aspects of privacy protection."


According to a recent New York Times report, the use of Facebook facial recognition that can identify your face in the photos that are uploaded to your platform, has several civil rights organizations up in arms. Using artificial intelligence and its own patented algorithm, Facebook already knows your face and that of your friends.

In Facebook's own words, scanning and recognizing your face helps prevent identity theft, and "protect yourself from someone else using your photo to impersonate you." At least, that's what he said when he tried to introduce technology for the first time in Europe six years ago. Facebook suspended its plans when European Union regulators began asking questions about security and privacy, but now, the situation is back.

One would think that Facebook would completely withdraw the idea due to previous concerns, increased by the recent Cambridge Analytica data scandal. However, the company has no plans to stop its plans. "They basically said they learned from the problems, and now you should not worry about this, because we're going to allow users to control facial recognition," Payton said.

Marketing your image

Facebook's plan to analyze your face does not stop at photos and authentication. According to WWD, the social media giant wants to monetize even more facial recognition with what he calls "increased commerce". The idea is to help brands and companies transform simple Facebook ads into interactive augmented reality (AR) experiences. The problem? Nobody knows what Facebook, or its advertising partners, specifically will do with the data obtained when scanning your face.


And that is just the beginning. Facebook has several patents that could be worrisome with respect to facial recognition technology. For example, a patent similar to what is seen in the movie Minority Report, describes a way to establish a "confidence level" for each person entering a store.

By recognizing their faces and connecting them to the data in their Facebook profile, the system could find out which buyers were "reliable", or could unlock special offers. This makes us think that the facial recognition system that is already implemented in Amazon Go stores could be on the way to something similar.

Other disturbing patents presented by Facebook include a system to track your emotions by scanning your face, matching them with what you are currently watching on your device. "This is a great technology, but why do not we take a step back and talk about the uses and applications of that technology, and develop future security and privacy concerns?" Peyton said.

She is right. It's not hard to imagine a day when the biometric data is accurate and routinely used to access your bank account, and if the data on your face is stolen, that could be incredibly problematic. After all, you can change your password, but you can not change your face.

Can biometrics protect us?

Technology such as facial recognition and fingerprint scanners are generally considered the safest alternative to simple passwords. But if that information is not protected, the consequences are catastrophic.

We have already seen it happen. In 2015, the Office of Personnel Management of the United States suffered a cyberattack that resulted in the theft of 5.6 million unencrypted fingerprints. "I am incredibly concerned about the ease with which biometrics can be stolen and used for malicious purposes," Payton said.

With a huge automatic learning infrastructure to boost the biometric exploration implemented in companies like Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, we tend to assume that those companies are also safeguarding that information in a blocked digital vault. But Payton says that the ability to protect our biometric data is not enough.

It seems that it is only worth implementing only when companies are willing to do the hard work of protecting the data, or even after having suffered some mishap. "This is what I would say to these technology companies ... Let us know that you are thinking about these worst scenarios and creating protective measures. If we at least have those guarantees, it would be incredibly useful given the current state of affairs. "

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