Fingerprint recognition is the biometric modality that is most often used in everyday life thanks to the prevalence of such sensors on contemporary smartphones, but it’s probably facial recognition that jumps to mind for most people when they think of biometric technology. It’s a modality that’s constantly in the news, thanks to sophisticated new consumer-facing systems like Apple’s Face ID on the iPhone, and to controversial government applications of this technology in surveillance and policing. That’s why November was Face Biometrics Month at FindBiometrics: there has never been a better time to delve into this modality, and to unpack some of the discourse around it.
We started things off with a primer on the most salient trends in facial recognition today. On the consumer-facing side, these include mobile authentication, with Apple having tilted the smartphone industry toward face-based authentication after the launch of its first face-scanning iPhone in 2017; and the related use case of selfie-based onboarding, which is increasingly being used in the financial services sector. Moving toward the government sector, our primer looked at the ongoing ascent of biometric passenger screening and processing at the airport, and the use of facial recognition by police and other government agencies.
The Apple Effect and the Mainstreaming of Face Authentication
Our next feature for Face Biometrics Month took a closer look at some of the more sophisticated technologies helping to push the state of the art in face biometrics. This inevitably involved an examination of Apple’s role in prompting a new wave of enthusiasm for facial recognition with its Face ID system, which uses infrared laser technology to establish 3D models of users’ faces; but the feature also looked at other approaches to enhancing conventional facial recognition technology and fighting presentation attacks. And it concluded with a look at how these developments in the mobile biometrics sector have helped to push forward facial recognition technology in other areas such as access control, where industry leaders like StoneLock are capitalizing on consumers’ growing familiarity and comfort with this biometric technology.
Controversy Over Surveillance – But Not Authentication
Of course, FindBiometrics’ Face Biometrics Month coverage couldn’t have done justice to the topic without addressing the elephant in the room – the controversy over face-scanning surveillance. This has erupted as a major public and political issue over the last year and a half, and has brought this part of the biometrics industry under close scrutiny. But the discourse has helped to illuminate the issue: it has drawn into sharp contrast the difference between biometric surveillance, which is a matter of concern to many citizens, and face-based authentication, which has been enthusiastically embraced by a great number of consumers. And it has pushed companies like Microsoft and Paravision to lead the industry by example, setting principled limits to how their technologies should be used, and calling for reasoned and balanced regulation of the industry.
The Industry Speaks
Indeed, it’s probably not possible at this point to be a true leader in the facial recognition industry and to avoid addressing these issues. That certainly seems clear from our in-depth interviews with executives from StoneLock and Paravision. StoneLock’s VP of Sales, Yanik Brunet, didn’t hesitate to get into the controversies and challenges – not to mention opportunities – that are currently in play in the facial recognition space when he spoke with FindBiometrics Editor in Chief Peter Counter, though he also delved into other practical issues such as the importance of liveness detection and the technical challenges involved in actual access control deployments. Likewise, in a separate conversation with FindBiometrics Director of Digital Content Susan Stover, Paravision CEO Doug Aley and CPO Joey Pritikin also touched on liveness detection and other practical matters, but they were more than willing to offer their own views and guidance on how the industry should navigate public concerns about facial recognition technology and how it’s used more broadly.
There’s still plenty more to say about facial recognition technology as the industry and the public discourse around it continue to evolve. So stay tuned to FindBiometrics as we continue to deliver the latest news, in-depth interviews, and expert analysis beyond Face Biometrics Month and into 2020.