Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Recognizing Faces

 by Sybil Johnson

I spent last week in the Seattle area visiting family. This was the first time I put the boarding pass on my cell phone rather than having a paper ticket. I know, I know, I’m behind the times. Heck, I remember when you had to go to a travel agent to buy a plane ticket and they gave you an actual physical one. E-tickets and buying directly from the airline have made it so much easier. I’ve always thought of technology as a tool. Up until now I’ve never thought of the boarding pass on the cell phone as being something that was useful to me. I liked the feel of that paper boarding pass in my hands.

Of course, now that I’ve started doing this, what happens? The travel industry appears to be embracing doing away with boarding passes, even on phones, and using facial recognition instead. According to an article I read in the newspaper, airports, cruise terminals and theme parks are trying out facial recognition.

At Miami International Airport, facial recognition systems are used at some gates for international flights to match passengers’ faces to the passport photos they’ve put on file with the airline. More U.S. airports are embracing the technology. Passengers can opt out and present a physical passport, which I think is a good thing.

Apparently, Disney World tried out using facial recognition for entry into their parks in 2021, but decided not to continue. Some cruise lines are using it to keep track of who goes on and off the ship as a security measure.

Facial recognition uses the geometry of your face and converts that into data that can easily be compared to other facial data. Distance between eyes, depth of eye sockets, distance from forehead to chin, shape of cheekbones are all used to create a faceprint. Apparently, this biometric data can’t easily be changed without significantly altering one’s appearance.

Some people, including me, have concerns about this. I’m not satisfied that there aren’t a lot of bugs. I’ve read for quite awhile that such software is less accurate for people of color.

I can see other issues. An innocent person could be implicated in a crime. Biometric data could be stolen and used for nefarious purposes. Not sure what, but I’m sure some enterprising criminals will find a way to use it for “evil” purposes. If biometric data is stolen, it’s not like a social security number or credit card number which can be changed. 

I’m sure as facial recognition becomes more mainstream, it will appear more and more in TV shows, movies and books. 

What do you all think about the use of facial recognition?


Donis Casey said...

Oh, no. Please don't. However, this might lend itself to a good mystery plot.

Sybil Johnson said...

I can definitely think of a number of ways to put it in a mystery plot. Not terribly happy about the reality, though.