Americans may be more comfortable with facial recognition technology than some think, according to the results of a new study by the Pew Research Center.
The study was designed to suss out participants’ attitudes toward privacy issues through six hypothetical scenarios, and in a result that some may find surprising, the scenario in which they were most comfortable compromising their privacy involved facial recognition technology. The scenario asked whether participants would be comfortable with an employer setting up surveillance technology involving facial recognition after a series of workplace thefts; 54 percent said this would be acceptable, while 24 percent said it was not and 21 percent said ‘it depends’.
Given the kind of resistance that has sometimes emerged in response to the use of biometric tracking technologies in real-world work environments, this result may come across to some observers as surprising – though there have been many instances of systems like fingerprint-based punch clocks being installed in workplaces with no significant push-back. But it may also suggest that Americans are more comfortable with this kind of technology as a countermeasure in the wake of some inciting, unacceptable incident, just as how public support for drastic security measures can rise after terrorist incidents.
Interestingly, the scenario in which the most respondents found the sharing of personal data ‘not acceptable’ – at 55 percent – was one set in the respondents home, in which a smart thermostat shares its temperature and energy data. That may indicate that concerns about privacy in the emerging Internet of Things are well-founded, and that advanced user authentication technologies such as biometrics may prove highly desirable in securing user data against intrusion.
The study had a sample size of 461 US adults plus 80 online focus group participants.
January 14, 2016 – by Alex Perala