Facial recognition and identity risk
Back in 2011, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University showed that facial recognition could increase privacy risks. In the first test that they ran, they managed to identify people on a dating website where members didn’t use their real names. In the second experiment, they discovered the identities of students walking on campus, by linking images of their faces to those of their Facebook profiles. Photographs of students’ faces also eventually led researchers to guess their personal interests and, in some cases, their Social Security numbers (a form of identification in the United States).
Initially used by governments to combat crime, facial recognition has been quickly adopted by companies too. For starters, it allows Facebook to suggest friends that you can tag in photographs that you’ve uploaded.
In a world where marketers require demographics in order to tailor their products and services to an individual’s preferences, facial recognition is another type of data to be collected. It’s not just a case of matching your face to your Facebook profile photo; Microsoft Cognitive Services’ ‘Face API’, for instance, analyses photographs of faces to guess personal details about its subject. These include age, gender, pose, smile and facial hair.
Facial recognition identity risks
Facial recognition can be a useful tool for governments, companies and consumers, but it also comes with risks, especially to individuals. The latter includes:
- The lack of permission
Facial recognition data can easily be collected in public places – all the software would need is a clear image of the subject’s face.
- Predatory marketing
Software which analyses facial expressions could potentially be put to use by some companies to prey on vulnerable customers. This could be done by segmenting extreme emotions – such as distress – and tailoring their products and services to these individuals.
- Disadvantage when applying for jobs
Job applicants who don’t want to give potential employers access to details of their personal lives can keep these private, such as by selecting the related privacy settings on social media. However, facial recognition could potentially allow recruiters to find out more about you than you’d realise.
Tools like reverse image searches can provide stalkers with more data about their victims.
- Identity fraud
Criminals who have collected enough personal information on you could commit identity fraud. This could have a significant effect on your personal life, including on your finances.
How to protect yourself against the risks
Used responsibly, facial recognition can be a useful tool. However, it's still practical to try to protect yourself from the potential risks involved. If you’re offered the option for your image to be captured for facial recognition purposes, stop and consider whether it’s worth it.
Unfortunately, some practices don’t involve asking individuals for permission to collect facial data. This means that it’s worth being vigilant and keeping an eye out for any signs that your identity may have been stolen. You may also want to utilise your Equifax Credit Report & Score – free for the first 30 days then £14.95 monthly, it includes WebDetect, which will alert you if it finds that your financial details are being shared on the internet by fraudsters.
- Online Fraud Terminology
- What is anonymous browsing?
- Distributed Denial of Service explained
- How secure is your email?
- Identity theft and fraud explained
- Financial fraud explained
- Best practices for avoiding identity theft
- Stay safe online: Creating a secure password
- Scam avoidance: A few ways to help stay secure
- Are smart gadgets putting you at risk of identity theft?
- Helping your children stay safe online
- Should you share your location on social media?
- Safeguard your personal information on video game consoles
- Would you do internet banking on your smart TV?
- How fraudsters use Wi-Fi hotspots to steal data
- How to avoid email fraud
- Preventing your child’s identity from being stolen
- Keeping your personal information secure when moving home
- Protect yourself from becoming a victim of SMS phishing
- Protect against identity theft when sharing photos online
- Safeguard your identity on mobile apps
- Your social media profile and identity theft
- What is credit card fraud – can you prevent it from happening to you?
- How fraudsters can hijack your browser
- Safeguard your identity on Facebook and other social media sites
- Going on holiday - keeping your identity safe
- How to prevent smartphone identity theft
- Shopping online – staying safe against identity theft
- How to spot and avoid romance scams
- Dealing with phishing phone scams
- How cyber attacks happen
- Safer Internet Day – protecting children online
- 7 Signs of Identity Theft
- How to avoid contactless card fraud
- What Are Data Breaches?
- How to Spot a Phishing Email
- ID Fraud Overview
- How Financial Crimes Are Hidden in The Dark Web
- How much do you know about the Dark Web?
- Are you losing your identity?