Facial Recognition Technology with Human Rights Approach
Authors: Hyo Min Jun, Mengyi Wu, Xianrui Wang
Translated to Spanish by Alberto Pineda Alcántara
Have you heard of Facial Recognition Technology?
Nowadays, one kind of specific technology is used to “verify”, “identify” or “categorize” a person’s identity in tremendous situations by gaining human biometric data. (Facial recognition technology, 2019) For example, unlocking a mobile phone, or allowing access to a home or company through iris recognition, is using this technology-facial recognition technology by gaining biometric data. Biometric data is often used in such security systems based on the fact that everyone has their own unique data, which is difficult to replicate. (Facial recognition technology, 2019) Facial Recognition Technology, likewise, is a technology that uses biometric data to “verify”, “identify” or “categorize” a person’s identity through automatic recognition of a person’s face. (Facial recognition technology, 2019)
Facial Recognition Technology is more accessible than we can imagine in our daily lives. One of the most frequently seen cases is the face recognition function recently introduced in smartphones. This function recognizes the face of a mobile phone user and allowed only the owner to use his or her phone, making it impossible for others to use their phone recklessly. (Facial recognition technology, 2019) It helps to protect personal data and privacy in mobile phones. In addition to such personal uses, Facial Recognition Technology is also used to identify foreign arrivals at borders such as airports and ports that manage the country’s entry and exit, and further as an investigative technique for police investigations into crimes. (Facial recognition technology, 2019; Law Enforcement Facial Recognition Use Case Catalog, 2019)
What is the risk to use Facial Recognition Technology?
As such, Facial Recognition Technology is used in various areas. The technology, which verifies, identifies and categorizes an individual’s identity by recognizing his or her face, which is an individual’s unique characteristics, already has great confidence and expectations in public just by its explanation. As it responds, this technology is offering a variety of different ways besides conventional methods. This technology allows people to be more protected in their private sphere and provides a new way for companies and institutions to create a secure security system. Also, the combination of the police investigation and this technology is often introduced in criminal investigations as it provides more accurate data on crimes and helps to catch a clear criminal. (Law Enforcement Facial Recognition Use Case Catalog, 2019)
Nevertheless, there are also many inquiry voices of concern about Facial Recognition Technology. These days, for example, there are many places where surveillance cameras are installed on the streets for security reasons. When the police try to collect data from cameras installed in these public places for criminal investigations and criminals detection through facial recognition (Law Enforcement Facial Recognition Use Case Catalog, 2019), there are situations in which many people’s biometric data are collected and handled unintentionally. In this case, there is a concern about whether or not personal data can be protected in the process of collection and utilization of such biometric data, which is sensitive information for individuals. (Facial recognition technology, 2019) It also raises many doubts about whether the protection against exposure to personal privacy, not suspects or criminals of a crime, can be done properly.
Last May, San Francisco, home to many IT and Social Media companies, banned police and other agencies from using Facial Recognition. (Conger K., Fausset R. & Kovaleski S.F., 2019) San Francisco is using the technology to find suspects or perpetrators of small crimes. The reason behind San Francisco’s decision was that it not only had the potential for individuals to be monitored by the government but also that San Francisco, the mecca of high-tech IT companies, had the responsibility to consider the impact of these technologies and to make regulations. (Conger K., Fausset R. & Kovaleski S.F., 2019) In other words, they felt the need to regulate the use of Facial Recognition by police and other agencies because Facial Recognition had the potential to be used to monitor and control individuals other than to protect them. This suggests that human rights violations such as an infringement of an individual’s privacy can be committed by legally collecting and utilizing personal data before an individual recognizes it. In particular, in terms of privacy, this violation of human rights is serious in that personal inspections can be conducted through government agencies and that it can be legally implemented.
The Right to Privacy and Importance of its Protection
The right to privacy is also described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (hereafter ‘UDHR’) and the International Covenant Civil and Political Rights (hereafter ‘ICCPR’) as follows:
“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”
“1. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.
- Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attack.”
There is a standard reference to the right to privacy in the above two articles. One is that an individual’s privacy should not be subject to arbitrary infringement, and the other is that this right should be protected by law. In other words, no one should arbitrarily violate an individual’s privacy, and it should be protected by law if this right is violated.
Besides, regarding regional treaties, the right to privacy is stipulated in Convention for Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (1981) and Additional Protocol to the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, Regarding Supervisory Authorities and Transborder Data Flows (2001). Moreover, article 8 of Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950) is as follows: “1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence. 2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” All of them are legally binding on countries which signed or ratified
The right to privacy is essential, and the reason why it should be protected is that infringement of this right is related to other fundamental rights, which can be undermined or violated accordingly. For example, the violation of this right may weaken the Right to Freedom of Expression. In particular, reckless personal censorship by government agencies and police by using such new technologies can frequently lead to personal privacy infringement, making it difficult for the public to show their appearance to society. (Facial recognition technology, 2019) It can also create an environment where it is difficult to express oneself, not just physically, but also emotionally and socially, and eventually appears to be a form of suppression of freedom of expression. (Facial recognition technology, 2019) In other words, the infringement of the right to privacy is the starting point that makes it possible to infringe on other essential rights, the ripple effect of which cannot be ignored. That is why the proper regulation of Facial Recognition is needed.
The discovery and development of new and groundbreaking technologies such as Facial Recognition Technology bring convenience to our lives. Therefore, the development of technology has always been seen as having positive influences on our lives. However, in this era of the fourth industry, it is now necessary to recognize that the development of such technology is like a double-edged sword. Besides the innovative changes in life that technology brings, we should also consider whether it makes us live like humans.
Conger K., Fausset R. & Kovaleski S.F.. San Francisco Bans Facial Recognition Technology. (2019, May 14). Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/14/us/facial-recognition-ban-san-francisco.html
Facial recognition technology: fundamental rights considerations in the context of law enforcement. (2019, November 21). Retrieved from https://fra.europa.eu/en/publication/2019/facial-recognition-technology-fundamental-rights-considerations-context-law, p2-8, p18-24
Law Enforcement Facial Recognition Use Case Catalog. (2019 March). Retrieved from https://www.theiacp.org/sites/default/files/2019-10/IJIS_IACP%20WP_LEITTF_Facial%20Recognition%20UseCasesRpt_20190322.pdf, p1-25
Hyo Min Jun is from South Korea. She has worked for improving awareness of persons with disabilities in South Korea. Currently, she is a student of the UPEACE-HUFS Dual master’s Program and studied International Law and Human Rights at UPEACE.
Mengyi Wu is from China. She is a student at UPEACE majoring in International Law and master graduate of Shenzhen University majoring in law. She has a special interest in the legal issues of artificial intelligence. She has worked as a research assistant in matters related to the role of Hong Kong social organizations and as a senior legal counsel in technological companies.
Xianrui Wang is from China and currently interns in Latin America Faculty of Social Science (FLACSO), majoring in International Law and Human Rights (Master’s Degree) at the University for Peace from 2019 to 2020. She already has had her Master’s Degree in Beijing International Studies University from 2015 to 2018, majoring in Foreign Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, especially focusing on American politics, discourse analysis, human rights issues. Until now, she published two academic papers and one book. The first academic paper is related with the translation of one Chinese TV dramas, and the second one is about the critical discourse analysis of American presidential speeches. The book talks about the One Belt, One Road Initiative in China. She got her Bachelor’s Degree, focusing on English studies, in North China University of Water Resources and Electric Power from 2011 to 2015