Facial recognition is a developing technology, experimental projects are multiplying and relaunching the debate in France on its use. What does facial recognition consist of, what are the ethical issues? Quick overview in seven questions and answers.
Installation of access control gates by facial recognition at the entrance to high schools, access to online administrative services with the Alicem application … Facial recognition is an increasingly present topic in the news and raises many questions, in particular on the protection of personal data.
In 2019, Secretary of State Cédric O proposed to create, in coordination with the CNIL, a specific body responsible for supervising and evaluating experiments on the use of facial recognition in France.
What is facial recognition?
Facial recognition is a development of video surveillance. It is a biometric technology which makes it possible to analyze, thanks to algorithms, the facial features of people filmed or photographed and to compare them with images stored in a database. This system is one of the fields of artificial intelligence. According to the definition of the CNIL(new window), facial recognition allows:
- to authenticate a person , that is to say to verify that a person is indeed who he claims to be (for access control, for example);
- to identify a person , that is to say to find a person within a group of individuals, in a place, an image or a database.
It should not be confused with face detection determining the presence or not of a face in an image without being interested in its identity.
What are the facial recognition practices?
The rapid development of artificial intelligence is increasing the performance of facial recognition tools.
Security is the sector most interested in this technology, especially for identity checks at borders, stations and airports or to identify suspects during terrorist attacks.
Biometric data is increasingly used for authentication purposes. For example, new smartphones have facial recognition as their only identification option. The employment of facial recognition can also be used in the health field for the detection of diseases.
What are the ethical issues?
To work, facial recognition needs a file that contains the biometric data of a large number of people. However, this biometric data is sensitive information. The existence of a biometric data file raises two questions:
What does the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) require for facial recognition?
The GDPR regulates the processing of personal data on the territory of the European Union. It applies to any organization, public and private, which processes personal data on its behalf or not.
Free consent is mandatory to collect the data necessary for the use of facial recognition. The use of biometric identification cannot be imposed on an individual and the data collected cannot be kept subsequently.