Facial recognition technology: privacy and political orientation

There is growing concern that the widespread use of facial recognition technology has led and will lead to the decline of privacy and civil liberties. CCTV cameras and huge databases of facial images–taken from sources such as social media and ID card registers–make it easy to identify individuals as well as track their movements and social interactions. Plus, “facial recognition can be used without subjects’ consent or knowledge.”

Facial recognition algorithms “can identify individuals’ personal attributes, as some of them are linked with facial appearance”–attributes like gender, age, ethnicity, emotional state, and more, even political affiliation.

Featured article (this article has been added to Facial recognition: technology and privacy on Science Bibliographies Online):

*Kosinski, M. (2021). Facial recognition technology can expose political orientation from naturalistic facial images. Scientific Reports, 11, 100. [PDF] [Cited by]

Ubiquitous facial recognition technology can expose individuals’ political orientation, as faces of liberals and conservatives consistently differ. A facial recognition algorithm was applied to naturalistic images of 1,085,795 individuals to predict their political orientation by comparing their similarity to faces of liberal and conservative others. Political orientation was correctly classified in 72% of liberal–conservative face pairs, remarkably better than chance (50%), human accuracy (55%), or one afforded by a 100-item personality questionnaire (66%). Accuracy was similar across countries (the U.S., Canada, and the UK), environments (Facebook and dating websites), and when comparing faces across samples. Accuracy remained high (69%) even when controlling for age, gender, and ethnicity. Given the widespread use of facial recognition, our findings have critical implications for the protection of privacy and civil liberties.”

For more sources about facial recognition technology and related issues, search Science Primary Literature (database).

Questions? Please let me know (engelk@grinnell.edu).

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