ITGS Case Study 2020 - Face-to-Face facial recognition application
'FaceToFace facial recognition application' is the 2020 case study for ITGS paper 3. This is for HL ITGS students only. The case study booklet focuses on the fictional startup company FaceToFace, based in South-East Asia, who have developed facial recognition algorithms. The company has deployed its facial recognition technology to one site - a coffee shop - and is now developing ideas to expand the technology into coffee shops across the continent. Another major stakeholder in the case study is South East Asia Coffee Shops (SEACS), who are interested in utilising systems developed by FaceToFace.
Of course, being an ITGS case study, the scenario addresses technology (strand 3) and social and ethical issues (strand 1). For example, there are clear privacy concerns that the case study booklet raises about the use of biometric data.
This case study is for
May and November 2020 only. The case study for November 2019 is still The Road to Driverless Cars.
Background reading and research
These news articles are good introductory reading for the 2020 case study. They highlight real world examples of facial recognition technology and the types of issues it might raise. Many of these issues are directly relevant to FaceToFace, SEACS, and other stakeholders in the case study booklet.
Meadowhall shoppers scanned in facial recognition trial is a very recent (August 2019) article about the trial of facial recognition technology at a large shopping centre (mall) in the UK. Notably, this trial was conducted without the consent of the shoppers involved.
Data regulator probes King's Cross facial recognition tech. Similar to the article above, facial recognition technology was used in an area of London without informing the public or obtaining their consent. This seems to fly in the face of UK law, and the company is currently being investigated by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).
EFF, The Electronic Frontier Foundation, has an excellent page on facial recognition technology which covers how the technology works, its uses, and some very interesting potential problems. The article makes excellent background reading for the case study.
Examples - Facial recognition technology in action
The companies below all offer facial recognition technology and are therefore somewhat comparable to FaceToFace in the case study.
FaceFirst offers 'real time facial recognition' technology. Their website offers some interesting case studies highlighting the use of their products - such as reducing retail theft in stores and catching wanted criminals. As you might imagine, the website focuses solely on the positives of facial recognition technology, but it is still an essential read to understand the technology and how it might develop in the future.
Cognitec offer a range of facial recognition applications. These include security, law enforcement, and border control. However, the applications that stood out to me were those under the 'commercial' heading. Intelligent signage and VIP recognition could definitely be something that SEACS implement in their coffee shops.
Dynamic Imaging's Positive ID+ website focuses on the use of facial recognition technology to match images from crime scene videos to static photos in offender databases. It is easy to see how SEACS might implement a similar technology to (for example) recognise their customers as they enter a shop.
Face Plus is another facial recognition company. Their website contains a set of good images to help students understand the biometric process. One thing which stood out for me was the section of the site titled 'Image editing', which "edit probe images to perform a more effective facial recognition search". I found myself asking how this might affect the validity of the search and comparison.
How facial recognition technology works
The articles and videos below explain how facial recognition and similar biometric technologies work. A good understanding of these systems is essential to understand the resultant issues and to cover the Strand 3 requirements from the ITGS guide.
How Facial Recognition Works. HowStuffWorks is a go-to site for understanding more about many technologies. Its pages on facial recognition technology have a great level of detail, explaining the different factors that are used to take measurements and how templates are constructed. This is an essential read for the 2020 case study.
Issues - privacy, legal, and ethical issues
Privacy, surveillance, security, and other ethical issues can be major concerns when implementing biometric systems such as facial recognition. The articles below discuss the possible impacts of these issues as well as potential solutions and legal frameworks. Here the global nature of ITGS comes into play, as laws differ wildly from country to country. The rapidly developing nature of technology - especially biometrics - can also mean that systems have developed beyond the scope of existing laws.
The ACM Code of Ethics is explicitly mentioned in the case study booklet. This code provides guidance for professionals who work in the computing industry; respecting privacy is one of its key requirements.
Facial recognition in China
Big Brother facial recognition needs ethical regulations discusses the rampant use of facial recognition technology in China. This includes a huge range of facial recognition technologies for everything from traffic cameras to public toilets. How China Is Using A.I. to Profile a Minority explains how the technology can be used to discriminate against (in this case) Muslim minorities. In China, Facial Recognition Tech Is Watching You is another article on this theme, which even includes the use of AI-powered sunglasses by police officers. These are three truly frightening articles that highlight the potential for misuse and abuse of technologies such as facial recognition.
How To Run An Ethical IT Shop
This article from Microsoft highlights some best practices for companies who are considering implementing facial recognition technology in the workplace. It is easy to imagine how the SEACS shops would need to consider some of these.
The Ethics of Facial Recognition Software
This article starts with a discussion of 'celebrity recognition software', which builds upon facial recognition systems. However, the great thing about this article is the numerous links to related articles, covering everything from the risk of hacking facial recognition systems to a set of proposed ethical guidelines for companies using facial recognition.
Future Developments in Facial Recognition
The case study booklet states that pupils should consider 'future developments' within the context of FaceToFace, SEACS, and facial recognition technology. The news articles below provide a (hopefully realistic) examination of how this technology might develop in the foreseeable future.
The Verge reports that the US plans to implement facial recognition technology at its top 20 airports for all international passengers, with the aim of improving security and efficiency. Forbes and CNET articles both question whether we should be concerned about this technology and its effects on privacy.