Apple has this knack of taking complex technology and making it usable by mere mortals. At least, usable by mortals who recognize the complexity of technology, and the benefits of usability. Take Apple’s fingerprint scanner system, Touch ID.
The technology marries convenience– just touch a button to have a fingerprint scanned– with high security (it’s not easy to duplicate a fingerprint). Nattering naysayers of negativism and the worry warts of the technorati elite politburo cried out that Big Brother wins when your fingerprint unlocks everything on your devices.
That situation was repeated a few years later when Apple introduce Face ID’s facial recognition system to iPhone X. Again, critics worried that Face ID would be a harbinger of Big Brother’s eventual hold on humanity. Even Google has facial recognition technology but none of it has made it to Android OS or other platforms. Microsoft and Samsung both have facial recognition systems, but Apple is the one that leads because Face ID works.
Word on the streets is Google won’t sell its facial recognition technology. Yet. Why not? Apple seems to have brought such technology into the mainstream and done so with a minimum of worries even by staunch critics. Kent Walker:
Google has long been committed to the responsible development of AI. These principles guide our decisions on what types of features to build and research to pursue. As one example, facial recognition technology has benefits in areas like new assistive technologies and tools to help find missing persons, with more promising applications on the horizon. However, like many technologies with multiple uses, facial recognition merits careful consideration to ensure its use is aligned with our principles and values, and avoids abuse and harmful outcomes. We continue to work with many organizations to identify and address these challenges, and unlike some other companies, Google Cloud has chosen not to offer general-purpose facial recognition APIs before working through important technology and policy questions.
In other words, no facial recognition for you because problems.
The company noted that while facial recognition systems stand to be quite useful in a variety of situations, from assistive technologies to locating missing people, they also comes with risks.
Both Facebook and Google appear to be more risk averse these days, thanks to growing privacy problems.
Facial recognition technology has come under the spotlight in recent years, with everyone from local law enforcement to Taylor Swift employing it in some way. And certain companies have faced a lot of pushback over how they’ve handled their technology and who they’ve sold it to.
China employs facial recognition is various cities to help track down criminals and identify jaywalkers, shoplifters, and others involved in criminal activities; both serious and petty.
Microsoft President Brad Smith identified six principles to guide use of facial recognition, and three major problems:
- First, especially in its current state of development, certain uses of facial recognition technology increase the risk of decisions and, more generally, outcomes that are biased and, in some cases, in violation of laws prohibiting discrimination.
- Second, the widespread use of this technology can lead to new intrusions into people’s privacy.
- And third, the use of facial recognition technology by a government for mass surveillance can encroach on democratic freedoms.
Facial recognition can be used for good and bad. Apple’s Face ID is an excellent method to marry convenience with security. Higher security and easier convenience.
Meanwhile, Microsoft seems to want to delay facial recognition until the rest of the world adopts its principles:
- Fairness. We will work to develop and deploy facial recognition technology in a manner that strives to treat all people fairly.
- Transparency. We will document and clearly communicate the capabilities and limitations of facial recognition technology.
- Accountability. We will encourage and help our customers to deploy facial recognition technology in a manner that ensures an appropriate level of human control for uses that may affect people in consequential ways.
- Nondiscrimination. We will prohibit in our terms of service the use of facial recognition technology to engage in unlawful discrimination.
- Notice and consent. We will encourage private sector customers to provide notice and secure consent for the deployment of facial recognition technologies.
- Lawful surveillance. We will advocate for safeguards for people’s democratic freedoms in law enforcement surveillance scenarios, and will not deploy facial recognition technology in scenarios that we believe will put these freedoms at risk.
Maybe Google and Amazon and Microsoft’s versions of facial recognition are not as effective and usable as Apple’s Face ID.