How one Monaco company identifies with facial recognition.
Facial recognition technology is everywhere nowadays, from mobile police vans and border crossings to shopping centers and university campuses. According to Research and Markets, the facial recognition technology (FRT) market is expected to skyrocket from $4 billion in 2018 to around $10 billion by 2025 as more public and private sectors (airports, sporting venues) implement applications.
FRT compares algorithms of geometric facial features from a captured image (taken at banks, demonstrations…) to stored images (a driver’s license photo, social media…) and draws a conclusion.
The software design has taken giant strides from its early development—remember when the face ID technology failed to unlock the iPhone X at Apple’s 2017 launch?—but a recent New York Times article cited two separate research studies, one indicating an error rate of up to 35 percent for images of darker skinned women and another claiming “one widely used facial-recognition data set was estimated to be more than 75 percent male and more than 80 percent white.”
In January of this year, IBM made an attempt “to advance the study of fairness and accuracy in facial recognition technology” with the launch of Diversity in Faces, a dataset of annotations of human facial images that it made available to the global research community.
Good intentions went sour when it was discovered that the multinational had snatched nearly a million images of “ordinary people” without their consent from online photo-hosting sites, including Flickr, that were then categorized by age, gender and skin tone.
“This is the dirty little secret of AI training sets. Researchers often just grab whatever images are available in the wild,” NYU School of Law professor Jason Schultz told NBC, the American television network that broke the IBM story.
Civil rights activists and legal experts warn that the same faces helping to train FRT could one day be under surveillance by the very same technology, say at a Gilets Jaunes or Black Lives Matter protest.
With FRT, free speech and the First Amendment do not mean the right to be “free from surveillance,” which the International Justice and Public Safety Network cautions “has the potential to make people feel extremely uncomfortable, cause people to alter their behavior, and lead to self-censorship and inhibition.”
Even when used for security purposes, FRT has been met with criticism. Last year, at the Champions League Final in Cardiff, 2,000 people were wrongly identified as possible criminals (hats and glasses were the culprits) while in Los Angeles, at the privately owned Rose Bowl stadium, Taylor Swift fans were surprised to learn they’d been unknowingly scanned at her concert.
The Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law Center reports one in two American adults is in a law enforcement face recognition network although “no state has passed a law comprehensively regulating police face recognition” (no search warrant is necessary). Their findings also state: “Companies and police departments largely rely on police officers to decide whether a candidate photo is in fact a match. Yet a recent study showed that, without specialized training, human users make the wrong decision about a match half the time.”
The city of Nice decided to experiment with facial recognition technology after receiving permission from France’s freedom watchdog, the National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL). Over two days during carnival 2019, 1,000 volunteers were scanned with software developed by Confidentia, a Monaco-based company, founded in 2011 by Jean-Philippe Claret.
“During the event, we had the chance to test on a large scale our Anyvision facial recognition tool, which used artificial intelligence to find a person of interest in a crowd,” Claret, who has an MBA in Computer Science from the Control Data Institute, explains. “In 0.2 seconds, an image of 1 cm by 1 cm can detect a lost child while the rest of the crowd can be blurred in private mode, protecting their privacy.
“The market is promising, but authorities must give the green light before it can develop.”
Monaco installed its first surveillance cameras in 1982 and today has a network of 740 cameras—or one for 51 people—but it’s cybersecurity that’s at the center of the country’s concerns.
“Monaco is advancing on the digital front as shown by the creation of the Monaco Cyber Security Agency, and the appointments of Frédéric Genta in charge of digital transition and Thierry Poyet for Blockchain and E-health,” says Jean-Philippe Claret.
Since 2016, Confidentia has specialized in cybersecurity and Blockchain. Claret co-launched the World of Blockchain Monaco Association with Thierry Poyet, David de Pariente, David Wigno and Yannick Quentel, and chairs the Monaco Blockchain trade union. “As far as Blockchain is concerned, we have projects in the pipeline for Monegasque customers, the first being Cardmap, an augmented reality solution for tourism, but legislation must be passed quickly so that this market can develop in Monaco.”