They Grow Up So Fast These Days: Facial Recognition Tech Edition

from the look-at-all-these-cute-little-misidentified-faces! dept

Looks like there are no more untapped markets for facial recognition tech.

Waldo, a company that uses facial recognition software to help identify subjects in photographs, is making it easier for parents to get a glimpse of life at area summer camps.

The premise is simple, said Waldo Photos CEO Rodney Rice. Camps working with Waldo will give parents a private code to sign up. Parents upload a headshot or selfie of their child to Waldo’s system. When photos of campers are uploaded to camp websites, Waldo’s facial recognition software scans for matches to the uploaded headshots. Parents then receive pictures of their children as a text message, Rice said.

Nothing nefarious about this if you subtract the slow drip of surveillance tech into every corner of everyone’s existence. By the time the little scamps roll into adulthood, they won’t even view omnipresent cameras and their surveillance add-ons as encroachments. They’ll just be a normal part of life, like cellphones and high-speed internet connections.

This situation is better than most. Waldo’s service is completely opt-in. Parents who want to use it have to go through several affirmative steps, like uploading photos of their kids to be used by the software. The end result is a curated collection of photos containing opted-in kids, saving parents the trouble of weeding through hundreds of photos to find the ones they actually care about.

This is a far more responsible use of facial recognition tech on children than the New York Police Department’s version.

The New York Police Department has been loading thousands of arrest photos of children and teenagers into a facial recognition database despite evidence the technology has a higher risk of false matches in younger faces.

For about four years, internal records show, the department has used the technology to compare crime scene images with its collection of juvenile mug shots, the photos that are taken at an arrest. Most of the photos are of teenagers, largely 13 to 16 years old, but children as young as 11 have been included.

The PD, of course, claims this is all above-board, following the time-honored tradition of taking photos of arrestees. Also, apparently, the time-honored tradition of uploading them to a facial recognition database to (mis)match humans wandering past PD cameras.

However, it doesn’t seem so above-board when anyone other than the NYPD is asked about it. For one, the judicial system handles juveniles differently, affording them more privacy and protection than adult suspects. The NYPD’s program ignores all of this and forces their faces to mingle with all the adults in its database. And the city council itself appears to be unaware of this practice, which means the NYPD’s definition of “above-board” doesn’t include being honest and upfront with its overseers.

Whatever’s already wrong with facial recognition tech will only be made worse by throwing adolescents and children into the mix. The software tends to fail with alarming frequency and adding photos of people still undergoing facial development isn’t going to help.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is part of the Commerce Department and evaluates facial recognition algorithms for accuracy, recently found the vast majority of more than 100 facial recognition algorithms had a higher rate of mistaken matches among children. The error rate was most pronounced in young children but was also seen in those aged 10 to 16.

The companies providing this tech to the NYPD are about as open and upfront as the department that pays them. Neither Idemia or DataWorks Plus offered any clarification or comment when approached by the New York Times.

The only comment the NYT was able to secure was one that sounds like a true believer hyping their belief system.

Police officials declined to provide statistics on how often their facial recognition systems provide false matches, or to explain how they evaluate the system’s effectiveness.

“We are comfortable with this technology because it has proved to be a valuable investigative method,” Chief Shea said. Facial recognition has helped lead to thousands of arrests of both adults and juveniles, the department has said.

Very comforting. I guess everyone subjected to the frequently-mistaken tech will be relieved to know the NYPD likes the tools it feels it needs to discuss with no one before deploying. The NYPD refuses to offer up any data showing its tech works but says its comfort level should be good enough for everyone.

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Companies: waldo

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Comments on “They Grow Up So Fast These Days: Facial Recognition Tech Edition”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Well this is an idea that cannot possibly go wrong....

Children all look the damn same! I have friends with kids and literally cannot tell them apart! My sister and I, born two years apart, everyone thought we were identical twins! Who the hell thought facial recognition tech could possibly do something even family members who’ve known kids all their lives and can pick up on behavioural cues the software doesn’t look for cannot manage?

Sok Puppette (profile) says:

Waldo’s service is completely opt-in.

Oh, yeah? Who opts into the part where EVERY PHOTO THE CAMP CAN GET ITS HANDS ON is uploaded to the cloud so that this thing can look for pictures of the "opted-in" kids? These idiots have to handle photos of everybody, opted-in or not.

Here’s an idea: the staff takes no photos, period. Tthe kids share the photos they want to share among themselves by whatever means they see fit. If you see a photo you think your parents might want, and if you want them to have it, you ask for it.

… and if you do NOT want your parents to see a photo, then you don’t show it to them. So that you, as a child, can begin to develop a sense of yourself as an independent human with some fucking agency and some fucking entitlement to exist without being watched all the fucking time.

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