A New ACM TechBrief Spotlights Privacy, Ethics Problems with Facial Recognition Technology | ACM | TechBrief

From the Association of Computing Machinery:

The Association for Computing Machinery’s global Technology Policy Council (ACM TPC) today released, “ACM TechBrief: Facial Recognition,” a concise overview of an increasingly-used application which relies heavily on artificial intelligence. The brief includes a primer on facial recognition, key statistics about its growth and use, as well as important policy implications.

This latest edition highlights that the use of AI-driven facial recognition is “increasing despite its fundamental limitations, creating profound ethical and privacy concerns.” The TechBrief’s “By the Numbers” chart puts key statistics about its growth and use in high relief. For example, well over 80 million Americans (nearly 25% of the nation’s population) now live in jurisdictions that have banned or heavily restricted the use of facial recognition systems largely due to privacy and civil liberties concerns.

A key concern outlined by the ACM TPC is that bias (including racial and gender bias) is both pervasive and profound in facial recognition systems. The TechBrief cites several research studies demonstrating that errors often fall disproportionately on minority populations, particularly people of color.

“This new TechBrief complements a 2020 statement issued by the Association for Computing Machinery’s US Technology Policy Committee (ACM USTPC), which urged an immediate suspension of the private and governmental use of facial recognition technologies,” added James Hendler, Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Chair of the ACM TPC. “In theory, the deployment of facial recognition technologies could offer societal benefits. But, in practice, unregulated facial recognition use has the potential to cause harm to the fundamental human and legal rights of individuals in areas including privacy, employment, justice and personal liberty. We hope that by providing people with an accessible overview of facial recognition technology they will understand why it must be carefully regulated before it is even more widely adopted.”

This TechBrief is the second in a series of short technical bulletins by ACM TPC that present scientifically-grounded perspectives on the impact of specific developments or applications of technology. Designed to complement ACM’s activities in the policy arena, TechBriefs aim to inform policymakers and others about the nature and implications of information technologies. The first ACM TechBrief in the series focused on climate change. Topics under consideration for future issues include election security, smart cities, and encryption.

Direct to ACM Tech Brief: Facial Recognition Technology
4 pages; PDF.