One of the top stories from the past few days on the Association of Computing Machinery was a research conducted in Queensland University of Technology(QUT) regarding facial recognition, and how they plan on improving the current systems allowing facial recognition to be used in less clear images where there are multiple individuals, environmental obstacles or even technological obstacles.
Chief investigator Professor Fookes said there were a number of challenges to working in an unconstrained environment, where people were not necessarily aware their image was being captured.
“The idea is to identify people who are walking around naturally in a public space,” Professor Fookes said. ”For example, they could be at major sporting events, concerts, in airports, train stations and so on.”
Their plan is to use a combination of 2D and 3D video images taken from different challenging environments and eventually be able to recognize the person without a need to stand face on to a camera. Professor Fookes said that the research project would try to generate mathematical algorithms that would allow the computer to take parts and features from videos or pictures and convert the features into a model capable of recognizing and matching facial features. While this particular research talks about the benefits of facial recognition in law enforcement, however this “surveillance” method has been used a lot more often than we realize.
Around mid 2011 Facebook released a new feature for Photos known as “Tag Suggestions”. This new feature was supposedly to make your life easier tagging people in any new picture you upload, however, how does Facebook know who’s in the picture? yup, that’s right, facial recognition. Since Tagging images was launched, Facebook gathered billions of images that were tagged by us, and created a huge database for their facial recognition system. Unlike iPhoto ’09 that allows you to use face recognition for your personal galleries, Facebooks feature is online, therefore, once someone’s face can be recognized by Facebook, it will stay there forever. That sparked a lot of controversy and eventually Facebook allowed users to opt out of the facial recognition system.
As much as facial recognition can be used for good, it has too much potential to be the biggest breach in privacy in the cyber world. This kind of technology in the wrong hands can be used maliciously rather than the way it was suppose to be used. The fact is, there are iPhone Apps nowadays that use facial recognition! and while this specific linked example is pretty cool, since it uses facial recognition to unlock your iPhone, again, in the wrong hands this kind of thing can lead into a lot of privacy lawsuits.
Let the record state that I am a big fan of pattern recognition and visual technology in general, but unfortunately the cyber world is growing too fast for society to catch up with, and while facial recognition can be extremely useful IF its used wisely, technologies like these usually cause more controversies and lawsuits than anything