At one time, this was science fiction: In George Orwell’s dystopian classic, 1984, citizens are monitored 24/7 through the use of “telescreens” that are stationed in every home and throughout every workplace, monitoring for facecrime.
It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself – anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offense.1984. Part 1, Chapter 5. Winston has a moment of fear as he realizes he is being watched.
Facial recognition technology is routine today and can certainly be used in that way. Last summer, Comparitech ranked the U.S. #8 among 100 countries for widespread use of facial recognition technology. Clearview AI, for instance, has supplied “over 2,400 law enforcement agencies” in the United States with its facial recognition technology, but not without resistance. Meanwhile, Canada has banned Clearview AI from the country. For now.
Meanwhile, China is littered with 200 million surveillance cameras equipped with state-of-the-art facial recognition technology in order to reward and punish citizens according to their behavior in a social credit system.
Intel and Classroom Technologies have also been busy. They have partnered to provide teachers with facial recognition technology that would assess students’ emotions and level of understanding based on facial expressions:
The companies have partnered to integrate an AI-based technology developed by Intel with Class, which runs on top of Zoom. Intel claims its system can detect whether students are bored, distracted or confused by assessing their facial expressions and how they’re interacting with educational content.
“We can give the teacher additional insights to allow them to better communicate,” said Michael Chasen, co-founder and CEO of Classroom Technologies, who said teachers have had trouble engaging with students in virtual classroom environments throughout the pandemic.
His company plans to test Intel’s student engagement analytics technology, which captures images of students’ faces with a computer camera and computer vision technology and combines it with contextual information about what a student is working on at that moment to assess a student’s state of understanding.Kate Kaye, “Intel calls its AI that detects student emotions a teaching tool. Others call it ‘morally reprehensible.’” at Protocol (April 17, 2022)
According to Protocol, the classroom isn’t the only sphere where facial recognition has made inroads:
The classroom is just one arena where controversial “emotion AI” is finding its way into everyday tech products and generating investor interest. It’s also seeping into delivery and passenger vehicles and virtual sales and customer service software. After Protocol’s report last week on the use of this technology on sales calls, Fight for the Future launched a campaign urging Zoom not to adopt the technology in its near-ubiquitous video-conferencing software.Kate Kaye, “Intel calls its AI that detects student emotions a teaching tool. Others call it ‘morally reprehensible.’” at Protocol (April 17, 2022)
There are many, many muscles in the face, and those muscles can combine into hundreds of different kinds of gestures. They do facial recognition analysis to compute those gestures because those gestures predict emotion. And once they know what you’re feeling, that becomes one of the most powerful predictors of your behavior. Now that kind of behavioral insight is sold to business customers.Shoshana Zuboff on ‘surveillance capitalism’ and how tech companies are always watching us, in conversation with a Channel Four BBS producer, Sep 23, 2019
We must ask whether the convenience of new technologies is worth the continuous surrender of privacies.
You may also wish to read: U.S. ranked #8 in countries using facial recognition technology 7 in 10 governments widely use facial recognition technology.