Online Privacy in the Era of Facial Recognition Apps: What You Should Know 

Facial recognition technology has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. Their deployment has also expanded rapidly. The rise in technology’s use delivers some very essential considerations for individual privacy. There is no doubt that this technology will be used more and more in the future. China is already using the tech to charge jaywalkers. The US Immigration office is a tie-up with the DMV offices for facial recognition data. 

Online Privacy in the Era of Facial Recognition Apps- What You Should Know

This creates a wide intersection of problems from racial prejudice to plan human rights concerns. So, let’s have a look at what the technology really is and how you can prevent your face from being recorded and used without your consent.

How Does Facial Recognition Technology Work?

Facial recognition technology leverages some of the most advanced video elements in the world. It maps the facial structure of any human head and creates a fairly accurate representation of the same.

The exact points used to map any face depends on the specific parameters of the system. For example, one system has 68 parameters for making facial recognition accurate. The image below will show you the full process of how Facial Recognition is implied. Take a look.Facial Recognition - How Does It Work

The technology is growing more and more efficient with each passing year. So, it is only a matter of time before it is used across all public as well as potentially private arenas.

You probably unaware of it, but you were introduced to Facial Recognition a long time ago. How? Well, doesn’t Facebook tag your friends’ faces for you in photos you’d post on its platform? Yeah, that’s an example of this robust technology.

Where is Facial Recognition Technology Used?

The advent of high definition cameras and relative easy manufacturing has made facial recognition much more popular than one may expect. For the moment, they are restricted to the government, with the FBI reportedly having access to approximately 600 million facial images. As we said earlier, they are linked up with the DMV authority, and this gives them an ever-increasing database for facial recognition.

Aside from that, major companies like Facebook, Apple, airline businesses, major retail chains, etc. have access to facial recognition. You may also find this technology used in places of worship, specifically places with turbulent religious sentiment.

Further, online marketers and advertisers also get access to facial databanks for commercial use. They use this to seamlessly integrate between online and offline marketing.

Should You Worry About Facial Recognition?

Facial recognition technology is both a major security improvement and a cause for concern. This two-edged sword needs to be dealt with both at a legislative as well as individual level.

As I mentioned above, Facebook did make it popular years ago, and back then, it seemed totally innocent. You tagged a few friends in your photos, what’s the harm in that? Well, fast forward to 2019, you have yourself a technology that plays a major role in policing and surveillance.

There are many reasons why you should concern yourself with knowing about facial recognition and exercising your right to privacy. Here are the key reasons:


Easily available facial recognition is a major threat to individual safety. A person’s private pictures are taken and stored without their consent. As such, you need to understand how it may impact your personal privacy as well as security. This will help you navigate physical and digital spaces where facial recognition may be applicable more securely.

According to the May 2018 report, the FBI has access to 640 million facial images for searches. In general, that compromises a person’s privacy in ways you can never fathom. However, as popular as it’s getting, some states started working on the issue. San Fransisco took the first step to ban the technology, followed by Somerville and now Oakland.

Let’s be honest; facial recognition does indeed bring benefits. However, there is still an awful lot of work to be done before the technology is 100% used fairly and in accordance with human rights for privacy.

That’s not all. Your private information isn’t the only thing compromised. According to Amazon, there’s a software called Rekognition (Created by the company itself). It can identify all of your emotions, including when you feel happy, surprised, sad, disgusted, calm, and confused.

Lie detectors are so last season now. With technology such as Rekognition, your poker face will do you no good. So again, it’s not just your images at stake; you won’t be able to hide your feelings anymore.


The popularity of facial recognition technology is growing steadily. You can find it deployed in more places than ever before. So, you need to understand where your face and its features are being recorded. This gives you greater control over your own exposure.

From marketing to surveillance, facial recognition is expected to grow $3.2 billion in 2019 to $7.0 billion by 2024 in the U.S. It’s been used all over the world, especially in the states.

According to Matt Cagle from the American Civil Liberties Union in Northern California:

“With this vote, San Francisco has declared that face surveillance technology is incompatible with a healthy democracy and that residents deserve a voice in decisions about high-tech surveillance,”

Some people in the city were concerned about how unreliable it is and how it represented an unnecessary infringement on people’s privacy and liberty.


Private individuals have a right to restrict the recording of their own faces. If businesses get access, there are tons of ways they can misuse your face. This obviously compromises your privacy and grants agencies unauthorized access. You have a clear right to control this access, and doing so demands knowledge of facial recognition tech.

We mentioned above how businesses make use of such technology to invade your privacy. Well, Amazon is no stranger to this. Big business organizations, and of course, law enforcement agencies are already using Amazon’s software to their advantage. According to Amazon:

“Amazon Rekognition makes it easy to add image and video analysis to your applications. You just provide an image or video to the Rekognition API, and the service can identify objects, people, text, scenes and activities. It can detect any inappropriate content as well. “

On the other hand, you have other big companies such as Facebook. In case you didn’t know, the social media giant might be using your front camera to bombard you with ads. But how does this work?

When you’re browsing your feeds, your front camera uses facial recognition to record your reactions to each and every one of them. If it’s a happy face, you’ll be getting tons of ads related to the feed you were glad to see.


Though facial recognition technology is getting better, it is not perfect yet. Obviously, there are situations where fines are imposed on innocent people.

The same goes for drivers licenses and other important public ID authorities. So, you should restrict your facial exposure to minimize these. Let me give you a very good example of this.

The facial recognition tech caused a lot of problems for those who are either black or transgender. A while ago, trans Uber drivers lost their accounts because of the facial recognition system that’s bad at identifying faces of transitioning individuals. This account banning evidently cost the drivers fares and, most notably, their jobs.

There’s more. When it comes to skin color, facial recognition can cause a lot of trouble. Studies say that if a person in the photo is white, the software will be right 99% of the time.

However, if the skin gets darker, errors start to arise, which may lead to a 35% success rate. Here’s an image of how gender was misidentified in almost 35% of dark-skinned women in about 271 photos.Facial Recognition Error

If this glitch occurs in the police’s software, it may lead to misidentifying someone and applying wrongful convictions. The technology still needs to be worked on.

How Can You Protect Yourself from Unauthorized Facial Recognition?

While facial recognition might be instrumental in solving crimes from petty theft to terror, it does impose on the general public. Now, there are certain steps you can take to protect your privacy and prevent agents from gathering facial data on you:  

Know the Technology

Facial recognition technology has a long way to go before it becomes deployed accurately en masse. However, it has already begun making major strides. This means both governments and private individuals will need to keep up with the technology. The first thing you need to do is understand where the technology is used.

If you use facial social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat, or even Skype, then your face might be stored in a database. You should know the technology before using it. In this case, you can deactivate any outside app you’re not using, i.e., your camera.

Know the Laws

The laws surrounding facial recognition are still lagging behind the technology. While that will always be the case, lawmakers are keeping a keen eye on developments.

A California Bill called AB 1215 limits the use of facial recognition technology considerably. While it applies only to California police departments, it is still a sign of things to come. 

If you want to keep yourself protected from misuse of facial recognition technology, then make sure to stay updated with the laws.

Know Prevention Techniques

Facial recognition makes use of cameras. We’ve had cameras around us for quite some time now. So, there is a fair bit of overlap between facial recognition tech and traditional anonymization methods.

Using caps, face masks, etc. is a common means of preventing facial recognition. However, these may land you in difficult spots with police officers or security personnel.

Carnegie Mellon University and the University of North Carolina have developed specialized glasses that prevent facial recognition. Such technologies are likely to become more popular, and keeping up with them is a smart move.


Facial recognition technology is here to stay. And it will only get more popular. As a privacy-conscious individual, you need to make sure you stay on top of developments.

This will impact your safety as well as that of your loved ones. Staying abreast of the laws and other coverages is essential. However, taking personal measures is the best and only way to ensure your face and your privacy remains with you.

Stay informed and make sure your privacy stays in your hands. If you have any more tips for our readers, kindly drop them in the comments below.

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