The argument about whether cutting-edge technology should be used to keep us safe is one that has gone on for decades and will continue to rage on as we find ever more sophisticated – and intrusive – ways to monitor for threats, identify criminals and perform other aspects of law enforcement.
One of the hottest topics in this area at the moment is facial recognition technology, which can analyze our faces quickly and efficiently, helping protect us at airports by spotting known terrorists, as well as assisting in the search for missing children. No-one could argue that these are important tasks to get done as immediately as possible, but are we willing to give up our own rights to privacy to enable that?
In a world where we are already surveilled by CCTV wherever we go, some see facial recognition as another step too far towards the kind of police states seen in dystopian science fiction novels. In Belgium, for example, a pilot project using facial recognition technology at an airport was brought to a halt in 2019 when it was found to be in breach of federal privacy laws. So where is this technology being used around the world?
As the amount of green on this map shows, Europe is very much open to facial recognition technology being used. In February 2020, police in London made their first arrest because of it, even though a study showed that it was inaccurate in 96% of cases.
The Bahamas has shown that the technology can be used for very positive purposes, as they put it to use to help with the search for missing persons after the devastating Hurricane Dorian. However, in the USA, cities like San Francisco, Oakland, and Northampton have started the push back against its use.
However, there’s widespread adoption of it in South America, with Brazilian police using facial recognition technology during Carnival in 2019, making 134 arrests from the findings. They also used it to great effect when they caught South America’s second most wanted man.
Middle East & Central Asia
Most countries in this region use the technology, with Israel monitoring Palestine through facial recognition at its 27 crosspoints in the West Bank. Meanwhile, in the United Arab Emirates, police have started wearing smart glasses to enable facial recognition in crowds.
Rest of Asia and Oceania
It might not surprise you to find out that China is a leading user of facial recognition technology as well as producing and selling it to the rest of the world. One of the most unusual uses of the technology is being developed in Australia, where it could be used to verify the age of people wanting to watch online porn.
Currently behind the curve when it comes to the adoption of this technology, only 20% of African countries use facial recognition, mostly in the south of the continent. According to Chinese provider Huawei, its use in Kenya led to a 46% reduction in crime.
Whatever you think about facial recognition, have a look at whether it is being used in your country on these maps.