Smile for AI Blog Series: Why Now?
13 February 2024

Smile for AI Blog Series: Why Now?

13 February 2024

Welcome back to our Smile for AI series, where we continue to unravel the rapidly evolving world of facial biometrics. In this installment, we explore a pressing question: Why is facial biometrics gaining such significant traction right now? After all, commercial application of the technology has been around for decades. From headline-making litigation like BIPA to the growing sophistication of deepfake technology, the landscape is shifting quickly. Let's dive in.

Public Demand and Government Response

The public's desire for biometric solutions in everyday life is evident. For instance, 73% of airline passengers are now willing to share their biometric data to streamline airport processes​​, a significant increase from 46% in 2019. Moreover, 56% of U.S. adults trust law enforcement to use facial recognition responsibly​​. These statistics indicate a growing acceptance and trust in facial biometrics.

Deepfake Technology: A Rising Threat

Deepfakes and related technologies, such as face swaps and generative adversarial networks, are becoming increasingly prevalent. In 2022, attacks involving these technologies surged by 149% from the first to the second half of the year​​. This alarming trend highlights the need for more robust and effective biometric systems. However, the performance analysis of state-of-the-art deepfake detectors shows a worrying variance in efficacy, ranging from 97% down to 30%.

The BIPA Litigation Wave: A Catalyst for Change

Last year saw a huge surge in biometric litigation under the Illinois-based Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA). While this is of course a US-based case, the US is often seen as a pioneer in both technology and its regulation, meaning that legal precedents set there often influence global norms and policies.

An astonishing 74 of 182 total lawsuits filed under BIPA sprouted in just two months from December 2022 to February 2023​​. This legal spotlight has not only heightened public awareness but has also pushed companies to reconsider their biometric data practices. With big tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Snapchat settling BIPA cases for a whopping $203.5M​​, the message is clear: the legal implications of biometric technology are vast and critical.

Legislative and Technological Developments

On the legislative front, the EU is poised to enact the Artificial Intelligence Act by spring 2024, which includes provisions against the unauthorized use of biometric data​​. Technologically, we're seeing innovations like the Pan-European Entry/Exit System, set to replace traditional passport stamping with facial biometrics by the end of 2023​​. Companies like Eurostar, the channel tunnel train operator, are also adopting these systems for cross-border travel.

The Path Forward: Navigating Challenges and Opportunities

As the technology advances and becomes more accessible, creating basic facial deepfakes has become easier due to open-source frameworks and tutorials. This presents a dual challenge of ensuring robust security while maintaining ethical standards. The rulings of Illinois' supreme court, affirming individual penalties for each BIPA infringement, underscore the legal seriousness of these concerns.

Facial biometrics is at a crucial juncture. The demand and enthusiasm for its benefits in security and convenience are counterbalanced by concerns over privacy, legal compliance, and the threat of deepfakes. As we continue to navigate these waters, the importance of responsible innovation and rigorous compliance cannot be overstated. The future of facial biometrics hinges not only on technological advancements but also on the industry's ability to align with ethical standards and legal requirements.

In our next blog, “The Many Faces of Innovation” we turn our focus to the expansive use cases of facial biometrics. From national eID systems in countries like India to enhancing security at borders and in law enforcement, we explore how this technology is reshaping identity verification. We'll also delve into its role in customer onboarding and mobile payment security, highlighting the industry's innovative approaches amidst evolving privacy and regulatory landscapes.

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