Governments and organisations around the globe are increasingly recognising the benefits of facial recognition technology, but mounting privacy concerns mean not everyone is a fan.
The past few years have seen governments starting to introduce facial recognition in airports to boost security and speed up departures. Meanwhile, organisations are implementing multi-factor authentication solutions, such as fingerprint sensors and facial recognition technology, to tackle the rise of cyber-attacks, terror attacks, and identity theft.
Facial recognition is expected to become even more prominent over the next few years because of the advantages it offers over traditional surveillance techniques like biometrics. The technology can achieve highly accurate matches at long range, match multiple visitors simultaneously in high-traffic areas, provide real-time matching against databases, and maintain high accuracy despite hats, hoodies, glasses, and so on.
According to a report by Mordor Intelligence, the market is estimated to reach a value of $9 billion by 2024, up from $4.51 billion in 2018.
The roll-out of facial recognition technology is believed to be an important step towards increased security, but with privacy concerns rife, it doesn’t always sit well with the general public. Major data breaches have become commonplace, and this has made people extremely wary about the type of personal information held by central organisations and how secure it really is.
Privacy concerns aren’t just limited to fraud. As people’s use of social media grows, our photos, likes and dislikes, and connections with others are enabling software programmes to build up a data profile of ourselves that can be sold on to marketing agencies without our permission. There are also Big Brother fears, with facial recognition in airports already being labelled an invasion of privacy by some travellers.
How blockchain can help
This double-edged sword is something that blockchain technology enthusiasts hope to resolve.
Kairos, a facial recognition artificial intelligence company, believes everyone has the right to an “anonymous digital identity”. It argues that businesses don’t need to know exactly who you are in order to verify that it is you. The company is building digital identity verification technology powered by face biometrics and blockchain technology. By enabling a “biometric blockchain”, users can leverage their digital identity in a way that protects their privacy by giving them the power to verify important transactions or interactions.
Blockchain development company Aetsoft, which offers facial recognition services among others, claims that only blockchain can provide the rapid data access, fast transaction speeds, and effective security required for successful facial recognition implementation. Smart contracts can accelerate the efficacy of facial recognition technology, for instance by automatically issuing boarding passes if the face matches. At the same time, storage and transactions can both stay on-chain, protected by cryptography, consensus, and an immutable audit trail.
Another company, Faceter, is tackling crime as a vendor of computer-vision surveillance technology powered by a fog network of miners. Faceter makes surveillance cameras “smart” through enhanced facial recognition, object detection, and real-time video analysis. These features allow cameras to understand the situation and respond to it, thereby offering better security.
And in Saudi Arabia, blockchain ATMs are being developed which use biometric scanners to scan the face of each account holder as part of a five-factor authentication process. The Alhamrani Universal ATMs use ShoCard’s blockchain technology to confirm the identity of the user without actually accessing the database of their bank. The ATMs are designed to combat card fraud while still protecting individuals’ identity.
More to come
The next few years could see even more blockchain-enabled facial recognition solutions being developed. In Europe, for instance, the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum recently produced a report setting out a path to improving the current digital ID landscape. The report says it is now possible to build new identity frameworks based on the concept of decentralised identities. It also recommends that the EU clarify regulatory questions around the standing of blockchain-based signatures and timestamps.
The big challenge for governments and organisations will be winning over the general public. This will require a major educational push on what blockchain technology is, its role in fighting crime, and how it can keep us safe from the ever-growing threat of data security breaches.