Facebook is being sued in an Illinois court over the amount of details that are used in its facial recognition algorithms. The case brings up questions about rights to privacy, and how they intersect with the rapid pace of technology. Is the Wild West of computer vision over?
How much biometric information are you comfortable with sharing? How much of that information is too much for a machine or company to store? These are strange questions, but they are being argued in the Illinois courts.
The case of one Nimesh Patel against Facebook sets a unique precedent for laws based on biometric devices. I find it useful to open my iPad using my thumbprint, but the devil is in the details, and biometric recognition software needs a lot of them. If you take Patel’s word for it, Facebook could be storing too many.
Details of the Nimesh Patel Case
The lawsuit hinges around the violation of the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA), which applies limits to how companies store and utilize biometric identifiers such as scans of face geometry, retina or iris scans, and voice prints. The law was passed in 2008, and the Nimesh Patel case is one of a number of lawsuits that are also proceeding against companies such as Google and Snapchat.#NimeshPatel sues #Facebook over the #BiometricInformationPrivacyAct Click To Tweet
Patel thinks that Facebook went too far when it collected too broad a spectrum of details about his facial features. The details ranged from how many millimeters of skin are between the eyebrows to the distance that the mouth extends across the cheeks, and other such details. We all have hundreds of little details about our faces, and those details aren’t readily changed, so if the information got into the wrong hands, then our likeness could be potentially recreated for all manner of crimes.
Patel thinks that Facebook violated BIPA, and his day in court is set for this October. Civil liberties groups are keeping their eye on this one since it will bring to the courts a long-standing debate about the right to privacy in an age where AI need to store massive amounts of data about human physiology.
The Future of Facial Recognition
The tech sector in the U.S. wanted facial recognition, and apparently, that has led them into some pretty deep rabbit-holes. To recognize a face, you have to recognize a lot of information, and while humans usually use short-term memory to process this info, computer vision algorithms don’t.
That means that you need to have your AI crunching every small detail that it can handle to let its deep learning neural network gain some understanding of what it is looking at. Furthermore, it has to hold onto those details to help it with other faces in the future.
Thanks to deregulation, the U.S. was free to develop computer vision and facial recognition technologies, and develop they did. Now it’s up to culture and the courts to set the proper boundaries of this new technology.
“consumers also have the power to set limits on new technologies.”
As with all new technologies, Edgy Labs encourages you to stay informed. You have to know what limitations companies have when taking your information in order to protect yourself.
We’ll see what the courts say in the coming years, but consumers also have the power to set limits on new technologies. Facial recognition technologies could bring wonders such as storefronts that automatically recognize a regular customer.
Consumers vote with their wallets, and if the technology behind that storefront makes them uncomfortable then they will not shop there.
It will be interesting to see how the Illinois courts make their decision in October, especially if you are into monitoring how human rights and technological advances intersect.