Pandemic is testing the limits of face recognition

Increasingly, it is used in what is presented as a public health benefit. Australia has recently expanded its program to implement covid-19 security measures using facial recognition. Those who are quarantined are subject to random check-in and must send a selfie to make sure they follow the rules. Location data is also collected, according to Reuters.

When it comes to necessities such as emergency benefits for housing and food, according to Greer, giving everyone access to help is a top priority. She adds that preventing fraud is a seemingly rational goal, but the most pressing goal must be to bring the benefits people need.

“Systems need to be built from the beginning with human rights and the needs of vulnerable people in mind. They cannot be considered later,” Greer says. “Once the problem has already occurred, we cannot fix the bug.”

According to’s Hall, his company’s services are preferable to existing methods of identity verification, and the state has reduced “massive” unemployment fraud since conducting face verification. It is useful for. He states that unemployment insurance claims show a true pass rate of about 91%, either by themselves or through a video call with an representative.

“”[That] Our goal has been achieved, “he says. “If we could automate 91% of this, states that were still in their infancy in terms of resources could use those resources to provide 9% of White Grove Concierge services.”

According to Hall, if the user is unable to go through the facial recognition process, will send an email to the user for follow-up.

“Everything about this company is to give people access to what they qualify for,” he says.

Real world technology

The month JB survived without income was difficult. Financial worries were enough to cause stress, and other troubles like a broken computer exacerbated anxiety. Even their former employers couldn’t or wouldn’t have helped get through bureaucratic formalism.

“It’s very isolated to be like’no one helps me in any situation’,” says JB.

On the government side, experts say it makes sense for the pandemic to bring new technology to the fore, but cases like JB show that technology itself is not the answer at all. Anne L, an assistant professor of data policy at New York University. Washington says that new government technologies work most of the time in the research phase, but in the real world, if they fail with a 5% chance, they want to think they’ll succeed. She compares the result to a musical chairs game. In the musical chairs game, in a room of 100 people, 5 people are always left without seats.

“The problem is that the government gets some technology and it works with a 95% chance. They think it’s solved,” she says. Instead, human intervention is more important than ever. Washington said: “They need a system that regularly handles the five standing people.”

When private sector is involved, there is an additional layer of risk. The biggest problem with deploying new types of technology is where the data is stored, Washington says. Without a trusted entity that has a legal obligation to protect people’s information, sensitive data can fall into the hands of others. For example, how would you feel if the federal government entrusted your Social Security number to a private sector when it was created?

“The problem is that the government gets some technology and it works with a 95% chance. They think it’s solved.”

Ann L. Washington, New York University

Extensive unchecked use of facial recognition tools can also affect already marginalized groups more than other groups. For example, transgender people have detailed and frequent issues with tools such as Google Photos and may wonder if their pre- and post-migration photos show the same person. That means reviewing the software over and over again.

“”[There’s] Daly Barnett, an engineer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said: “You can’t trust them to accurately classify, calculate, and reflect these beautiful edge cases.”

Worse than failure

Face recognition conversations usually discuss how technology can fail or distinguish. However, Barnett encourages people to think beyond whether biometric tools work or whether technology is biased. She pushes back the idea that we need them at all. In fact, activists like Greer warn that a fully functional tool can be even more dangerous. People are fighting back, but facial recognition is already being used to identify, punish, or suppress protesters. In Hong Kong, protesters wore masks and goggles to hide their faces from such police surveillance. In the United States, federal prosecutors have withdrawn charges against protesters identified using facial recognition accused of assaulting police officers.

Pandemic is testing the limits of face recognition

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