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"Should Facial Recognition Companies have access to Children’s Biometric Data?"

Facial recognition is finding more and more use-cases around the world where convenience, speed, and efficiency are required. And now, this technology is being introduced across nine schools in Ayrshire, Scotland… on a trial basis.

The software, in use since October’21, checks “a register of faces stored on the school’s servers, to allow children to pay for lunch using their faces” according to The Scottish Sun.

The reality is that most kids are more concerned with learning the latest TikTok dance craze, not what a Facial Recognition company with intimate access to their Biometric data is doing with it. However, it should concern those of us who are adults because we don’t have clear answers to three, simple questions:

  1. Can we trust Facial Recognition technology?

  2. Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

  3. Should certain parts of society, children in this case, be shielded from such technologies?

Can You Trust Facial Recognition

There will always be skepticism and reservation around the unknown, and Facial Recognition is not exempt from this. It is an innovation that most people do not understand and lack even the most basic of details. Most people just think it’s about unlocking phones and paying for things through Apple and Google Pay.

Facedapter is an example of a Facial Recognition company working to increase the convenience, speed, and efficiency that such use-cases need, while still-maintaining user privacy, and guarding it. Our goal is to build digital trust, one face at a time.

Even with the promise of transparency, the reality for most people is that if you have any kind of social media or online presence, there is already Facial Recognition Software that could have access to your face.

This transforms the original question around trust in Facial Recognition technologies to how risky are such technologies and whether the benefits outweigh the risks. Short of erasing the entirety of your digital footprint, there may not be much an individual can do against a powerhouse with access to biometric data.

Do the Benefits Outweigh the Risks

Where the schools in Ayrshire, Scotland are concerned, there are approximately 1000 students that need to be served in under 30 minutes.

The proposed benefits of this technology for kids are that it is faster than fingerprint scanning software, and is more Covid-secure than card payments. It slashes the average transaction time to five seconds allowing children to get their lunch faster while also minimizing their potential exposure and transmission abilities as unknowing Covid super spreaders.

A North Ayrshire Council spokesman said, “pupils often forget their PINs and unfortunately some have also been the victim of PIN fraud, so they are supportive of the planned developments and appreciate the benefits to them”. Not only that, but it seems a “side-benefit” of such a system is a reduction in queue-jumping…

Though 97% of parents and children at the schools in Scotland consented to the implementation of Facial Recognition, the concern remains that this trail could normalize the tracking of minors without their consent, given to authorities by parents who do not quite grasp the full ramifications of their decisions in both the short and long-term.

Should We Draw a Line

In these particular situations, Facial Recognition is not necessarily solving a pressing issue. Schools have been serving lunches for decades and queue jumping is not the highest-ranking security problem in society–at least for the moment.

So if this biometric data is being collected and stored thanks to the (potentially) uneducated permissions given by parents, shouldn’t there be some form of informed regulation which should step in to handle such cases?

Unfortunately, there are few clearly communicated regulations offered to the public on how that data will be collected, categorized and used in the years to come. This could lead to mass surveillance and limit freedom of expression for kids who need to learn, grow and make mistakes without the fear of the “eye in the sky”.

Which brings us to the ultimate question: how much of your privacy are you willing to sacrifice for convenience and where do you draw the line?

While the implementation of Facial Recognition might be inevitable for such use-cases as international travel or sensitive security-guarded entry requirements, maybe we should already put a few boundaries in place to keep people safe, starting with our children.

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