Facial Recognition Glasses For Covert Surveillance
The “iFalcon Face Control” AR glasses that incorporate an 8-megapixel camera in the frame and NNTC facial recognition technology (are due to go on sale next year) are reported to have already been deployed into several security operations.
US / Dubai Manufactured
The facial recognition-enabled smart glasses are made by American company Vuzix and use facial recognition algorithms from Dubai-based company NNTC. It has been reported that the NNTC facial recognition algorithms rank in the top three for accuracy in the US government’s Face Recognition Vendor Test and can detect up to 15 faces per frame per second, thereby enabling them to identify a specific individual in less than a second.
To date, only 50 pairs of the facial recognition-enabled glasses have been produced, all of which have been sold to security and law enforcement and are, according to NNTC, being used as part of security operations in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi.
The iFalcon Glasses Won’t Need An Internet Connection
The iFalcon Face Control glasses that are due to go on sale next year will come with a portable base station. This will mean that they will have a portable connection to a stored a database of targets, thereby giving the user greater mobility as they won’t need an Internet connection for the software to function.
Similar Used In China
Facial recognition glasses have already been used by police forces in China last year in order to keep blacklisted people e.g. certain journalists, political dissidents, and human rights activists away from the annual gathering of China’s National People’s Congress.
Known use of facial recognition for law enforcement already happens in the US through its incorporation with body cameras and CCTV cameras, and in the UK it has been used in deliberately overt trials and deployments e.g. a two-day trial in Romford, London by the Metropolitan Police in December 2018 using use vehicle-mounted cameras, at the Champions League final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff 2017, and at the Notting Hill Carnival in 2016 and 2017.
Criticism and Problems
The use of facial recognition technology at events and trials in the UK has, however, come under fire over several issues including poor levels of accuracy, a lack of transparency in how it is used, the possible infringement of privacy and data security rights e.g. what happens to images, and value for money in terms of deployment costs versus arrests.
This led to ICO head Elizabeth Dunham launching a formal investigation into how police forces use facial recognition technology (FRT) in the UK.
Data security and privacy are such thorny subjects for agencies, organisations and businesses alike that even though using facial recognition to help organise photos has been a standard feature across the social media industry, Microsoft is now issuing an update to its Windows 10 Photos app that prompts users to perform the almost impossible task of confirming that all appropriate consents from the people in the user’s photos and videos have been obtained in order to use facial recognition to find photos of friends and loved ones. This move shifts the burden of responsibility away from Microsoft to the user.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
The covert and mobile nature of these new glasses not only seems to be somewhat dystopian and ‘big brother’ but could, in theory, provide a way for users to simply get around existing data protection and privacy laws e.g. GDPR.
As a society, we are to an extent, used to being under surveillance by CCTV systems, which most people recognise as having real value in helping to deter criminal activity, locate and catch perpetrators, and provide evidence for arrests and trials. The covert use of facial recognition glasses is, however, another step further on from this and from the deliberately overt and public trials of facial recognition in the UK to date. As such, to be used in the UK, it will require faith to be put in the authorities that it is used responsibly, and that its accuracy is proven, and that rights groups are able to access facts, figures, and information about the technology, where and how it is used, and the results. Presumably, the ICO may also have questions about the use of such glasses.
If there is no public transparency about their use, this could also result in suspicion, campaigning against their use and a possible backlash.