Posts tagged with "Facial recognition"

Facial recognition goes to camp

July 31, 2019

 “Hello Mudddah, Hello Faddah, Here I am at Camp Granada. Camp is very entertaining.  And they say we’ll have some fun if it stops raining.”

Those lyrics were written by comedian Allan Sherman—and produced as one of the most popular songs of 1963. Meant to satirize the sleepover camp experience through the eyes (and vocal cords) of a homesick child, the song is punctuated by the chorus, “Take me home, Oh Muddah, Fadduh, Take me home. I hate Granada.”

But the reality is that, when kids leave for summer camp for the first time (or any time), their parents miss them, too—and wonder what they are doing, if they are making friends, and if they are settling in. They wait anxiously for cards and emails—and check the camp’s daily photos for what they hope will be a happy and smiling face.

And that part is getting easier all the time: Summer camps across the country are allowing parents to  opt into facial-recognition services to receive photos of their camper without having to sift through hundreds of group shots for proof that little Susie is having a good time climbing ropes, The Wall Street Journal reported on July 30.

Camp photographers can upload photos to a service, where they are scanned and identified. Parents then receive photos of their kids via text or through a website.

Waldo Photos of Austin, Texas, Inc. is one of the services, now offered at more than 150 summer camps across the country. The service is starting to be adopted by schools and sports leagues, too.

Camps either pay for Waldo, themselves, and offer it to parents or they ask parents to pay directly at a price of $1 to $2 per child a day, the Journal reports. If parents want to sign up to receive photos through Waldo, they have to submit a reference photo of their child so that the artificial intelligence (AI )can detect a match. The images are stored until a parent asks for them to be deleted.

Is that a good thing?

Rodney Rice, Waldo’s founder, said the facial data the company uses to identify kids would be no good to anyone else. “The misperception is that facial recognition is a fingerprint. I could hand a 40-digit alphanumeric hash to Google or Facebook and they couldn’t do anything with it,” he said. “I’m a father of three and I’d have never started this business if I was going to be putting kids at risk.”

Privacy and cybersecurity experts say parents may well trust a company’s intentions, but what happens if the company changes hands? Waldo’s privacy policy contains the boilerplate legalese explaining that if the company were sold, its customers’ personal information could be transferred.

While commercial applications of facial-recognition software abound—and bear their own fair share of controversy—the fact that this latest wave is geared toward children has privacy experts and politicians urging parents, camps, and school districts to think twice.

Concerns over this precious data—children’s faces—range from accuracy to abuse, the Journal says. Could it one day be used for purposes other than that for which it’s currently intended?

In the movie, Minority Report, biometric systems created for marketing are commandeered to hunt down citizens suspected of wrongdoing. There’s no evidence of this happening yet, but as science fiction goes, it’s not too far-fetched.

“We’re in the very early stages of commercial, nongovernmental use of facial recognition and we shouldn’t be waiting until harms occur to do something, we should be acting now to mitigate the harms,” Nathan Sheard, a grass-roots advocacy organizer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the news outlet.

Facial data also is coming under scrutiny by the Federal Trade Commission—which earlier this month launched a review of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a 1998 law that requires children’s websites to obtain parental consent before collecting, using or disclosing a child’s personal information. The FTC now is seeking comment on whether the definition of “personal information” should be expanded to include biometric data.

The makers of facial-recognition software argue that concerns about the technology are overblown because people don’t really understand it. For these companies, facial data isn’t captured and stored as a usable image, but rather as lengthy chains of numbers and letters that can only be deciphered by proprietary software. Developers argue the data would be meaningless to anyone who doesn’t have their model.

“At some point we have to stop and ask ourselves whether the costs to our privacy are no longer outweighed by the benefits,” Sean McGrath, managing editor at ProPrivacy.com, a digital privacy advocacy group, told the Journal, adding,. “With facial recognition, more than any other technology, we’re at one of those watershed moments where we really need to step back and assess the bigger picture.”

Julie Jargon, a tech writer for The Wall Street Journal advises parents to ask the following questions before consenting to facial recognition for their children:

  1. Where will my child’s facial data be stored and for how long?
  2. Will the data be shared with third parties and, if so, what are their policies for storing and sharing the data?
  3. Are there purposes for the data other than what’s being advertised? For example, will my child’s facial data be used to train AI for law enforcement or corporate partners?
  4. What happens to my child’s data if the service provider is sold?
  5. What happens to the data if I decide I no longer want to use this service? Will it be deleted immediately?

Research contact: @WSJ

The face is familiar: Each of us recognizes about 5,000 people

November 21, 2018

Let’s face it: Most of us have no problem recognizing somebody whom we have seen before. Remembering where we met (or saw) him or her, and putting a name to those familiar features  requires a different set of skills altogether.

Throughout our lives, we commit faces to memory, according to a November 20 report by Psychology Today. We can recall classmates from elementary school, people who share our morning commute, and the actors in our favorite television shows. But how many of those faces are stashed in a permanent mental repository?

Researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom recently sought to pin down that number—estimating that people know an average of 5,000 faces. And that figure simply represents the number of faces we might know—not the number we are capable of retaining, according to their findings, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“We may not have an upper limit for face learning,” Rob Jenkins, the lead author of the study, told Psychology Today, adding, “The thousands of faces we commit to memory may only be the tip of the iceberg for this mental capacity.”

Jenkins and his colleagues asked 25 participants, between 18 and 61 years old, to list the people whose faces they would recognize. The researchers helped by providing prompts to consider specific social niches, such as colleagues, friends of family, and retail staff. Participants also listed every famous figure they could recall and recognize.

Next, the investigators presented a slide show of famous figures and calculated the ratio of how many faces participants said they recalled to how many they were able to recognize from the photo series. (They couldn’t do the same for non-famous faces, since it wasn’t feasible to collect photos of them.) Applying that ratio to participants’ lists of people they would recognize allowed the researchers to arrive at a final estimate.

The team found that recognition abilities differed greatly among participants—ranging from a “low” of 1,000 to as many as 10,000 familiar faces. That variation may be due in part to the environment in which someone was raised—a rural or urban area, for example—as well as their level of media exposure, Jenkins speculates.

They concluded that, as humans gradually have transitioned from living in small, tight-knit communities to a large, interconnected world, the ability for facial learning has been up to the task. “It seems that if you’re building cognitive equipment that allows you to differentiate between a couple of hundred individuals, in doing that you’re building apparatus that’s also good for several thousand,” Jenkins told the magazine. “Maybe you can’t achieve the former aim without incidentally gaining the additional capacity we use now.”

Indeed, retaining facial recognition over time requires observing and internalizing the same visage with various expressions, at different ages, and in assorted contexts. A face can look different when its owner puts on makeup, gets a haircut, ages five years, or appears in a darkened restaurant rather than a brightly lit room, Psychology Today reported.

“The key to learning each face is learning the person’s variability,” Jenkins says. “You have to be exposed to the way the face changes.” (One key factor is that people generally tend to be poor at remembering faces they have encountered only briefly, he says. That deficit becomes exceedingly important in legal or forensic situations, such as during eyewitness testimony.)

Identifying how many faces people recognize—and how those faces become familiar—is relevant for understanding deficits of face perception, Wilma Bainbridge, a post-doctoral researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health who studies the perception and memorability of images, said in an interview with the magazine. For example, she suggests, face vocabulary could potentially be used as a marker of perceptual decline in the course of Alzheimer’s disease.

The brain also possesses a strong capacity for object memory, yet evidence suggests that faces require a unique form of processing, Bainbridge says. Humans are drawn to the geometry of faces from an early age: A 2015 study conducted at the University of Padova in Italy found that infants show a preference for an image of two dots above a third (which more closely mimics a face) compared to two dots below a third.

Finally, faces that embody more emotion or threat are especially enduring, Bainbridge says. “It may be less important to know a familiar or unfamiliar place, because you can take time to explore,” she notes, “But it could be really important to pick out your friends and your enemies.”

Research contact: rob.jenkins@york.ac.uk

Americans are in favor of facial recognition to deter terrorism, violent crime

February 7, 2018

The majority of Americans are in favor of facial recognition as a means of preventing crime at stadiums, in airports and within other public spaces, according to findings of a poll commissioned by FaceFirst and released on February 6.

The poll, conducted on behalf of the Los Angeles-based facial recognition provider by Survey Monkey, asked a national sample of 1,008 adults of varying ages and income levels their opinions on surveillance, public safety and face recognition—finding that:

  • 54% of Americans plan to use face recognition to protect their personal data or already own a device that uses face recognition;
  • Nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents think that security personnel guarding airports, concerts, sporting events and other public areas should be allowed to use face recognition to help recognize terrorists and prevent crime; and
  • 77% of Americans think that security personnel guarding airports and tourist attractions are not likely to remember the names and faces of potential terrorists on a watch list without face recognition

In addition to increasing personal use of face recognition for privacy protection, public safety fears also appear to be influencing public opinion. The survey found that nearly nine in ten (89%) Americans think it’s likely that a terrorist or mass shooter will attack a concert, sporting event or airport over the next 12 months. In addition, 73% reported that they would feel less safe if cameras were removed from airports.

“When it comes to preventing crime and terrorism, the vast majority of Americans are in favor of technology that makes public spaces more secure,” stated FaceFirst CEO Peter Trepp. “By implementing face recognition, stadiums, airports and tourist attractions can provide customers with an additional layer of security that’s both wanted and needed in these uncertain times.”

Research contact: @williamtyree