Should Your HR Department Use Facial Recognition Technology

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Apple recently announced that the iPhone X will utilize face recognition technology instead of the current thumbprint for personal identification purposes. So it's only logical for you to start wondering if this is new technology you'll need to invest in for your business sooner than later. Maybe, and maybe not.

Here are some pros and cons of adopting this technology.

More Accurate Than You Might Expect

If you're thinking about the facial recognition software that tags photos automatically in Facebook, be aware that the new iPhone X program is completely different. According to Forbes, the new Face ID works by using 30,000 infrared dots that map the face. It's supposed to only activate when the user is looking directly at it with their eyes open. Additionally, it's supposed to have a false positive rate of one in a million. The current thumbprint technology used by iPhones has a 1 in 50,000 false positive rate, notes Forbes. In other words, the technology can deliver accuracy, and unlike a scannable badge, your face can't accidentally be left on the subway.

Is the Recognition Software Racially Biased?

Previous facial recognition software was found to misidentify African American people more than other races, according to The Atlantic. Los Angeles Police used this technology to scan faces in various locations and match them up against a set of suspects. A higher false positive rate among African American people is, of course, concerning.

If you're interested in using this technology to figure out who strangers are, you may run into a similar problem. If you're using facial recognition as a tool for ensuring security for application logins, the programming is different. However, until the technology rolls out, it will be difficult to know exactly how accurate it will be for all races.

Can a Picture of Someone Be Used to Beat Security?

In the movies, criminals go to great lengths to copy people's fingerprints to beat fingerprint scanner. But could a simple photograph of an employee allow someone to hack into the system? The Verge notes that the Samsung Galaxy S8 had this very problem — hold up a picture and unlock the phone. The new Apple technology is supposedly much more complex and more accurate. If they roll this technology out to other areas then you can probably rest assured that it won't be cracked so easily. But again, until it's been thorougly tested in the real world is unknown.

What About Data Security?

If your employees carry smartphones now that are integrated with your business data or even a business email, your data could be at risk. Could facial recognition make it easier for, say, the police to force an employee to unlock their phone? You can't force someone to put in a password, but you can certainly hold a phone up to someone's face.

Of course, the same problem exists with the current touch technology. If it's a real concern, for instance if your employees frequently cross-country borders where the rights to privacy don't exist, then consider your options carefully.

Should We Adopt This Technology?

No organization should adopt a technology simply because it's new and cool. Instead, it should fill a real business need. Right now, Apple's technology is limited to their phones, but other applications may not be far behind — either from Apple or other businesses. When considering adopting new technology at your organization, ask the following questions:

  • What benefits do we gain from this?
  • What are the costs to this?
  • Is it better than our current system? Are those improvements worth the actual cost?
  • What will our employees think about the new technology?

Also, be sure to consult with legal counsel, as many states have, or are considering, laws that laws that impact the collection of biometric information by companies.

If you are a BYOD (bring your own device) workplace, this facial recognition software could be coming into your department as soon as the iPhone X hits the stores. Make your decision soon for how you'd like employees to handle it.

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