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  • Writer's pictureCrisis Shield

How to Manage a Crisis #017: How to use Facial Recognition software to enhance your security

By Georgia Comensoli and James Fitzpatrick

Crisis Shield Facial Recognition software

We’ve seen facial recognition before; introduced by cartoons like the Simpsons and spy films like James Bond. In reality, you can safely assume that Government security agencies are using the technology extensively and we've seen big tech players like Apple roll it out for their latest iPhone models (to enable users to unlock the screen using their face).

Homer Simpson facial recognition

Homer Simpson cheats the technology in an episode of The Simpsons.

As the technology becomes common-place, it's time to consider how your organisation could use Facial Recognition software to enhance its security.

Can anyone get their hands on the software? Pretty Much. Nearly a year ago, Amazon released a new product for public sale called Amazon Rekognition. As the play on letters in the name suggests, it’s facial recognition software. In the US, domestic law enforcement agencies purchased Rekognition to aid in common police investigations; using a database of faces (one report estimates over a million faces) the software can identify people of interest in public or private spaces.

How it works

In real time, you provide the software with rolling coverage or images of the area you would like to obtain information from. The software then offers a range of services; from identifying persons of interest (if they’re registered in the database already) to facial analysis (e.g. distinguishing between male or female, smiling, or perception of emotions).

The software can also identify the objects, scenes and activity those individuals are carrying as safe (or unsafe), and label those objects for what they are. If required, you can then track highlighted individuals.

If your business has an outdoor area, the software can even detect images and words, enabling the tracking of things like car registration plates.

The Flaws

The biggest hurdle to the technology's use is the debate (worldwide) around whether the technology breaches an individual's privacy. Before you deploy the software, run it through your organisation's privacy policy (and your legal / HR teams), ensure none of your intended use cases breach that policy.

In some cases, organisations who have deployed the technology have experienced PR issues with some customers reportedly feeling uncomfortable with its use. If you are looking to use it, we'd recommend clearly communicating to your customers how, why, and to what extent it's being used, highlighting (if relevant) how it's being used to enhance their individual safety.

Because this technology is still developing, there are also flaws in its accuracy. When trialled by UK Police officers at a large soccer match, the software falsely identified 2297 out of 2470 football fans as persons of interest.

Where it works

Despite its flaws, there have been many occasions of the software being used with great success. Earlier this year Chinese authorities used facial recognition software to pick out a wanted man in a crowd of 60,000 concert goers.

Broadcasters around the globe have been using this software when reporting live coverage of an event to identify persons of interest in real time. During the recent Royal Wedding between the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Sky News announced they were partnering with Amazon to identify guests and celebrities as they arrived.

Australia isn’t late to the party either – facial recognition software was used at the recent Commonwealth Games along with passport gates at our major airports.

Why have it?

As for your individual company and business, using this software could enable your security team to identify threats in real time. After uploading your existing database, the technology can use that information to locate people who may be banned from the premises or people of interest.

If it isn’t the individual you’re after, then it can perceive actions, objects and tasks people are doing as they walk through your business. If someone robs your business and flees in an unknown vehicle, the software can pick up its license plate.

At the very least, set an alert for when your boss arrives back in the building so you know to get back to work.

In all seriousness, while we've highlighted some flaws with the technology, it's certainly worth keeping an eye on as the technology improves and becomes more readily available.

You can find out more about Amazon Rekognition here.

As part of our Crisis Ready services, we're now offering counter-terrorism and security audits for organisations of all sizes. For more information, contact one of our consultants today.

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