Eye-opening scenes from the "age of facial recognition," in The Economist's cover editorial:

  • "In America facial recognition is used by churches to track worshippers' attendance; in Britain, by retailers to spot past shoplifters. This year Welsh police used it to arrest a suspect outside a football game. In China it verifies the identities of ride-hailing drivers, permits tourists to enter attractions and lets people pay for things with a smile. Apple's new iPhone is expected to use it to unlock the homescreen."
  • "One big difference between faces and other biometric data, such as fingerprints, is that they work at a distance. Anyone with a phone can take a picture for facial-recognition programs to use. FindFace, an app in Russia, compares snaps of strangers with pictures on VKontakte, a social network, and can identify people with a 70% accuracy rate."
  • "Facebook's bank of facial images cannot be scraped by others, but the Silicon Valley giant could obtain pictures of visitors to a car showroom, say, and later use facial recognition to serve them ads for cars."
  • "Some firms are analysing faces to provide automated diagnoses of rare genetic conditions, such as Hajdu-Cheney syndrome, far earlier than would otherwise be possible. Systems that measure emotion may give autistic people a grasp of social signals they find elusive."
  • "Researchers at Stanford University have demonstrated that, when shown pictures of one gay man, and one straight man, the algorithm could attribute their sexuality correctly 81% of the time. Humans managed only 61%."
  • Why it matters: "Amazon and Microsoft are both using their cloud services to offer face recognition; it is central to Facebook's plans. Governments will not want to forgo its benefits."

Go deeper:

"Advances in AI are used to spot signs of sexuality."

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