The Dawn of the Future: Appraising Facial Recognition as an Event Technology

Facial recognition is a biometric technology that mathematically stores an individual’s facial features. This allows the technology to identify a person in live video or digital images without any other information. With this, your facial features become your digital fingerprint. 

Our clients never fail to ask us this question: “How do you ensure that our data is privately secured?” Being event organisers, they not only value the efficiency and convenience of technology, but also realise the threats it poses to the privacy and freedom of its users.

Our company currently uses the QR code check-in system which enables automated and instant self check-in. In the meantime, we are also actively hunting for a diverse range of check-in methods, including facial recognition.

The use of facial recognition has been gaining momentum in the last few years. Some common examples include tagging a friend on Facebook, unlocking your phone with Face ID and airport customs inspections. The biggest advantage of Face ID would be the speed of the check-in process. However, at the heart of the debate, some concerns regarding the consensus among users and algorithmic biases are raised.

Facial data as sensitive data, whose responsibility is it?

EU’s data protection regulation has defined sensitive data to be “Data about an individual’s race and ethnicity, religious or philosophical beliefs, sex life, sexual orientation, political opinions, trade union membership, health information as well as genetic and biometric data”. Thus, facial data of all people is sensitive data, which calls for an even higher level of protection. This requires all companies to be aware of their responsibilities when producing, disseminating and applying users’ data, and to pay attention to the following aspects: How can they obtain users’ consent in a transparent way? Is the facial recognition software inevitably accompanied by the issue of algorithmic bias?

Consent

Usually, event companies will ask the users to upload their headshot in order to later identify them at the check-in point. Once they upload their headshots, it is considered that they have yielded their consent. However, the decision power of consenting is not on them all the time. Some events provide guests with the option to check-in using other methods, such as QR code or manual registration, and attendees can choose to upload their headshots or not. However, for some events, face identification is the only check-in method, which makes it mandatory for any guest to consent to sending out their biometric info. In such a case, it cannot be said for sure that consent was given out of the individual’s free will for the use of their personal data.

algorithmic Biases

“We have entered the age of automation. Over confident, yet under prepared.” – Joy Buolamwini

Part of her research examines how accurate facial recognition software are when examining people with different skin colour and gender. Microsoft has the highest accuracy of 94%. However, all softwares have algorithmic bias that better recognises certain types. For example, lighter males on average have a much better accuracy than that of darker females.

While the biggest advantage of facial recognition in event check-in is its efficiency, some delegates may be stopped at the entrance because the software fails to recognise females and people of colour. This “future technology” then not only loses its advancement but also its credibility of fairness.

Going from here

The future of technology is mostly in our hands. We need to decide for ourselves how we should incorporate it into our daily lives. The event industry primarily works with people, so it should not be a test lab for any technology that is not ready. However, we are confident that AI researchers and developers are doing their best to make the algorithm just and transparent, so we can expect a better future with the facial recognition technology.

Till then, the most efficient and secure method of checking-in would be through QR-code scanning. At EventNook, we make event registration easy with our fast and seamless QR code check-in.

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