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Fighting crime and curtailing human bias with face recognition
In light of large companies’ withdrawal from selling face recognition to the police, Cognitec continues to support the responsible use of biometric technologies by law enforcement agencies and other government organizations worldwide.
Face recognition technology has proven an imperative tool supporting daily investigative work that fights serious crime, including the search for missing children and victims of human trafficking. Comparing an image to a database of thousands of known criminals or finding a person in hours of video material is humanly impossible. The software can return a list of possible candidates within seconds.
In addition, human investigators are often overwhelmed by tense emergency situations or the long queues of unsolved cases, resulting in fatigued and stressful mental states that can have a negative impact on investigations. Algorithms don’t tire; they will return consistent results for police teams to rely on.
Most importantly, the software is used as a lead generation tool only, as the starting point of an investigation that uses additional methods to find or identify the person. Face recognition software NEVER makes an identification decision; an officer evaluates the comparison results and determines their use as a lead.
Racial biases are a human condition, often caused by lack of information. Diversely trained facial recognition algorithms use immense data to make neutral decisions, void of human prejudice. They do not use any skin color information, and can therefore support impartial investigations.
Nevertheless, the technology requires ongoing training with more diverse data. Vendors should implement best practices that identify and minimize any hidden biases, establish metrics for fairness, and test algorithms in real-world scenarios.
The dangers of misuse and technical limitations of face recognition technologies are well known, well documented and well argued. And so are their many benefits! But governments worldwide continue to struggle with providing sensible regulations that set definite rules for face recognition applications, especially for law enforcement. Cognitec strives to contribute mindful expertise to the establishment of clear guidelines that benefit each of us personally and society as a whole.