Everything that forms the basis of the societies in which we live brings with it benefits and potential drawbacks. The debate over the social benefits of using facial recognition technology in public places versus privacy concerns is a valid discussion in a democratic society. Whether it’s a business, a household or a society as a whole, we often weigh up the pros and cons of various infrastructure and services before deciding to adopt them. Facial recognition is no exception.
Recently, there were proposals to implement facial recognition technology as a potential solution in NSW pubs and clubs to identify unwanted visitors, vulnerable patrons, or problem gamblers. As a society, should we embrace the deployment of facial recognition technology to protect vulnerable problem gamblers and their families? Or does the cost of deploying this technology, and concerns over privacy, outweigh the potential benefits?
When deployed in larger entertainment precincts, we know that the leading facial recognition technology has proved to be twenty times more effective at identifying people of interest compared than security guards. Facial recognition technology is not new. Many of us use it daily. From unlocking a phone, accessing banking services, or using apps like Snapchat and Instagram, we are already heavy users of facial recognition technology. We are not always aware of it.
If we have a better way to safeguard problem gamblers and their family members, are we not obligated to do so? Problem gambling goes far beyond the gambler and their immediate families. There is an impact to the wider society too. Whilst a small country pub may not benefit from deploying this technology, medium to larger clubs and pubs are more likely to.
The benefits to society of deploying facial recognition are not limited to pubs and clubs. The flow-on effects of providing safe and efficient access to facilities will assist industries heavily impacted by COVID-19. The hospitality, entertainment and public transport industries, dependent on human proximity, can benefit. Facial recognition can support other functions like touchless payments and managing passenger flow through train stations.
Beyond the end-user benefits of digital identity to individuals, the adoption of digital ID solutions will provide jobs growth in the technology sector, providing a further benefit to society as our economies recover from the impact of COVID-19.
The benefits to individuals and society of adopting facial recognition for such use cases, coupled with appropriate regulation protecting people’s privacy, must surely outweigh the cost of deploying the technology.