Biometric systems are mainly used to analyze the behavioral characteristics of people using individual structures (fingerprint, eye, face, palm, etc.) and physiological characteristics (walking style, speech, or facial expressions). The area of usage that we are more familiar with in biometric systems is the use of facial data. For example, the phone camera scans your face to unlock your phone. Before that, you give the phone camera various “poses” to record key points of your face. When you want to open the phone later, no one else can open that phone but you. Of course, this situation can create exceptions for siblings and some relatives. (For example, I can unlock my mother’s phone without entering a password.) This is the simplest example.
Another example is the street cameras that we are watched all the time. When a criminal is sought, if there is a feature in the system that distinguishes that person from other people, such as facial features or gait, street cameras can help identify the criminal by scanning these features of that person.
BIOMETRIC SYSTEMS IN PERSONALIZED ADVERTISING #
In the movie Minority Report (2002), there is a remarkable technology in the scene where our lead actor (Tom Cruise) walks in a field. Since everyone’s face is registered in a large main system, the moment anyone in that area looks at the street camera, those cameras recognize that person. After getting to know him, personalized ads are shown on large billboards. We may think that this technology is not used now, but it is actually being used, not with our faces, but with our voices. I don’t want to scare you, but I want to tell you about an incident that I personally experienced. During a long journey, the windshield of the car cracked because a tiny stone hit the window of the car. As a result, we only talked among ourselves, about how can we fix it in the car, and whether there is a product to stick it. In the evening of that day, while I was browsing the internet, I came across an advertisement for a car window crack repair product. I wondered if I had searched for this on google, but I had not. I realized that it is used not only in our faces but also in our voices. And in these areas of use, no special permission or similar permission is obtained from us. Then the question comes to mind: Is it ethical to use these systems?
QUESTION MARK IN MIND #
There really isn’t a single answer to this question. Without these technologies, criminals would be much harder to catch. But on the other hand, it seems like a disturbing situation that our every movement and facial feature are stored in large databases independently of us. Many computer sciences and artificial intelligence researchers and ethics review authorities see no problem in using publicly available data in research without permission. However, with the change in time, this view began to be opposed. Due to these differences of opinion, some universities and companies have deprecated the database of face photos they use to improve their face recognition algorithms.
How do you feel about approaches to different uses of biometric technologies? #
In a recent Nature magazine survey of 480 people, respondents were asked how comfortable they were about using biometric technologies in given situations. (Approximate values are given.)
Elimination of suspicions regarding the crime committed: Quite Comfortable
Identification of passengers at the airport: Quite Comfortable
An unlocking process on smart devices: Somewhat Comfortable
Detection of people entering and exiting facilities in companies: A little uncomfortable
Identification of passengers in public transport systems: Uncertain
Police surveillance in public areas: Uncertain
Evaluation of student behavior by schools: Uncomfortable
Monitoring of people in public by companies: Uncomfortable
Evaluation of personality traits and emotions of candidates applying for a job by employers: Very uncomfortable
Any person identifying someone else: Very uncomfortable
As a result, although these technologies have various benefits such as finding missing people, easy access to smart devices, and tracking criminals, the existence of a technology that can recognize and classify people remotely without their knowledge and consent can make people nervous. Every day, new and solid steps are taken toward the ethical dimension of biometric systems. The development of a technology acceptable to all parties will contribute more and more beneficially to society.
“A sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
-Arthur C. Clarke