Covid-19 impact: India Inc switches to facial recognition for staff attendance

Paper: III

For Prelims: Facial recognition system.

For Mains: Science and Technology- Developments and their Applications and Effects in Everyday Life.

Context of News:

  • The fear of coming in contact with common touch-points amid the Covid-19 outbreak has sparked a rush across Indian offices to replace fingerprint sensors with facial recognition system to mark attendance.
  • The use of face recognition has received a lot of backlash due to fears of misuse of data and privacy violation.

Facial Recognition:

  • Facial recognition technology uses auto-focusing cameras to detect and identify faces using biometric identification to match faces in a system. Private companies like Google that use facial recognition have a higher accuracy rate of 99.63%.
  • However concerns are being raised, it can lead to bias by disproportionately and poorly identifying certain demographics like. Lawmakers are still determining new policies on facial recognition, both within law enforcement and private companies concerning privacy and consent.

Benefits of facial recognition system:

  • Benefit of body temperature regulation:
  • Apart from facial recognition, it comes with another benefit apart from marking attendance thermal scanning to check body temperatures to minimise possibility of spread of the infection.
  • The thermal imaging device will allow organisations track staff or visitors with high temperatures which can be indicative of an infection. If the cameras detect a person with a higher than normal temperature, IoT powered door will not open, HR will be informed and auto apply leave will be initiated on behalf of the sick employee.
  • Negating infection chances:
  • Face recognition is getting a lot of momentum. In the recent context, where touching a surface by multiple people have emerged as potential cause of infection.
  • Benefits for employees attendance regulation:
  • Facial recognition based time and attendance system embedded with temperature recording and IoT (Internet of Things) enabled doors is great combination for checking employees work attendance ,that will lead to enhance productivity of employees.
  • Enhanced security:
  • The first thing to start with is surveillance. With the help of facial recognition, it will be easier to track down any burglars, thieves, or other trespassers.
  • On the governmental level, facial recognition can help identify terrorists or any other criminals with the help of the face scan only. The additional bonus is the fact that one cannot hack the technology: there is nothing to steal or change, like in case of a password, for example.
  • As for personal use, facial recognition can be used as a security tool for locking personal devices and for personal surveillance cameras.
  • Faster processing:
  • The process of recognizing a face takes a second or less and this is incredibly beneficial for the companies.
  • In the era of constant cyber attacks and advanced hacking tools, companies need a technology that would be both secure and fast. Considering that facial recognition is almost instant, it grants a quick and efficient verification of a person. In addition, it’s hard to fool this technology so this is another bonus.
  • Seamless integration:
  • This is probably one of the biggest benefits for companies. The facial recognition technology is quite easily integrated so it’s a perfect choice. It does not require spending additional money on its integration and most facial recognition solutions are compatible with the majority of security software. A 100% win-win.

Concerns related to Facial recognition System:

  • Facial recognition in policing:
  • A broad coalition of civil rights and civil liberty organizations is opposing predictive policing technologies calling the strategy profoundly flawed.
  1. The data driving predictive enforcement activities such as the location and timing of previously reported crimes, or patterns of community and officer-initiated calls may be profoundly limited and biased.
  2. Looking through the USA perspective, the major concern raised by the civic society is the low reliability of crime data. It is well known that crime data is notoriously suspect, incomplete, easily manipulated and plagued by racial bias there. For racial minorities and women, facial recognition systems have proven disproportionately less accurate.
  • Fears of misuse of data and privacy violation of individuals:
  • Use of face recognition in recent times has received a lot of backlash due to fears of misuse of data and privacy violation of individuals.
  • Vulnerability in recognition:
  • Facial recognition technology is indeed very accurate and no one can doubt that.
  • At the same time, a slight change in the camera angle or even the change of appearance will inevitably lead to an error.
  • This is a really serious flaw. You cannot guarantee that a person will stand still and face the camera so the results will not always be correct. And if the person changes the appearance, it would be almost impossible to recognize them.
  • Massive data storage:
  • Machine learning technology requires massive data sets to “learn” in order to deliver accurate results. And such data sets require powerful data storage.
  • So if you are a small or medium-sized company you simply may not have the necessary resources to store all the data. And that might be a problem.

Way Forward:

  • Facial recognition is a powerful technology but it has to be used wisely. On one hand, it brings immense advantage to the companies and end-users, helps them enhance their security and track down the trespassers. On the other hand, it may be misused for personal benefit and lead to some serious consequences.
  • Facial recognition system issues of breaching privacy of individual can be addressed by encrypting all face data. As long as the company storing the face data can guarantee that it is kept under an encrypted wrapper and no one expect the software tools connected to the system can access them, it is safe to use them.