Facial recognition is being deployed by more and more countries trying to get control of the now fast spreading new variant of Covid-19.
South Korea is in the news, but other countries are using AI to manage tracing processes in the belief that facial recognition is the most efficient way to contact people who might otherwise be light with the truth when it comes to who, when and where they have been.
Already opinion is divided and the old and thorny issue of privacy has raised its head.
Park Dae-chul, a spokesman for the main opposition party in South Korea has taken to Twitter to make his point, saying that “the government’s plan to become a Big Brother on the pretext of COVID is a neo-totalitarian idea.”
Facial recognition is one of the technologies that has been given an enormous boost from the pandemic and the argument is fierce that governments are using the virus as a cover for introducing what amounts to surveillance of citizens.
A European privacy watchdog is calling for facial recognition to be banned because of the implications for privacy. Meanwhile, countries such as Australia are looking into the potential for managing and tracing people who are at risk – or who are a risk – during the pandemic.
Obviously one argument is that facial recognition is proving useful during the pandemic but systems should be dismantled once the threat has passed (if it ever does). But we know that going ‘backwards’ is just not going to happen.
The conclusion has to be that facial recognition must be here to stay. As with any other technology, it is neutral and it is the regimes and the people who run them who will determine whether its use is ‘good’ or ‘evil.’
It is a tricky issue.
Is using facial recognition and AI going to speed up a process that has the potential to slow, even halt, the spread of the virus?
Yes. So, that must mean it is good.
Is it true that facial recognition could potentially be a breach of a person’s right to privacy?
Also yes. So, that must mean it is bad.
Facial recognition is now a ‘thing’ and it will hopefully make things better. Yet you have to wonder about its use in a ‘pre-crime’ environment and you have to wonder, too, how many governments are trialling it or using it in the same scenario as China.
Related article: Meta shutters its facial recognition software.