Research Reveals Attitudes on Automatic Facial Recognition Technology
The first study to examine attitudes of societies across the world towards the use of automated facial recognition (AFR) by the police, governments and private companies has revealed people’s suspicions around the software. Researchers from the University of Lincoln, UK, and the University of New South Wales, Australia, conducted the global research project which will […]
The first study to examine attitudes of societies across the world towards the use of automated facial recognition (AFR) by the police, governments and private companies has revealed people’s suspicions around the software.
Researchers from the University of Lincoln, UK, and the University of New South Wales, Australia, conducted the global research project which will have implications for policy decisions around the world.
The potential benefits of AFR include the potential to speed up criminal investigations, bring more offenders to justice and help to resolve and prevent crimes.
AFR does this by automatically detecting faces in an image or video and comparing these with an existing database. For example, the database may be a criminal watchlist, and the target image may be CCTV footage of someone committing a crime.
Despite increased use of AFR worldwide, there is uncertainty amongst the public about what the software is, how it operates and who it is used by. In turn, this has led to conflicting opinions about the ethics of its place within society.
Over 3,000 individuals from the UK, Australia and the USA completed focus groups or a survey to answer questions about their opinions on AFR use in their country. This global research project, funded by the British Academy, outlined the circumstances in which respondents felt comfortable with the technology.
Dr Kay Ritchie, Senior Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Lincoln, says the data shows that trust in the use of AFR depends on who is using the technology, and what it is being used for.
She said: “We were really interested to see that members of the public in all the countries we surveyed were very specific about which users and uses of automatic face recognition (AFR) they were willing to support.
“For example, people in all countries trusted the police more than governments, with lowest trust for private companies using AFR.
“We feel that governments should be providing clear legislation and information around the use of AFR – in the UK this could mean including guidance in PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act).”
Attitudes amongst people in the UK, Australia and the USA were broadly similar, with only a handful of inconsistencies. For example, people in the USA indicated less trust in the police but more trust in private companies in comparison to people in the UK and Australia.
Whilst respondents could largely appreciate the potential security benefits of security and safety, the most common reasons not to trust AFR use included concerns about data misuse and storage.uThe paper recommends that developers, system designers, and users of AFR, including police and governments, do more to publicise the use, data privacy, and accuracy of the software. It has been published in the PLOS ONE journal and can be freely accessed here.