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Post-lockdown: Will Facial Recognition Technology Replace Biometrics?

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“Survival instinct” can now be witnessed in every human being that resides in a country affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. On a regular day, a human being would venture out in the streets and interact with fellow beings to stay connected. However, people are now moving around in masks and ensuring social distancing as a measure to survive a virus that has no cure found yet. 

There have been many observations made with regard to what is considered normal now and most of it points towards technology and its tools. Social media is the new way of socialising, video calling apps are now facilitating office meetings and school lectures, essential products are being delivered through an app, and so on. 

From a larger perspective, countries have been using technology in innumerable ways to contain the spread of the virus and help citizens in case of emergencies. 

Technologies being used by Governments 

A COVID-19 tracking app, GIS mapping, thermal imaging, drones, automation of tasks, and websites are being used to track those affected, quarantined, in contact with COVID-19 affected persons, and containment zones. The official government websites are providing citizens with timely information about the cases and the virus. 

While all of this has been working out well for governments, there have been a bunch of privacy advocates that are raising concerns over the privacy of an individual. Contact tracing apps have been collecting data from citizens and tracking their movements. 

Read: Containing The Spread Of COVID-19 Has Placed Data Privacy On Second Priority

Facial recognition technology to replace biometrics?

On a similar front, the much-debated facial recognition technology may see a headway into businesses and public places due to the COVID-19 precautionary requirements. A no “touching” rule that will prevail in the world even after the lockdown, will have to resort to facial recognition technology for identification. 

The application of this technology and other forms of AI is already being used in some sectors. For example, airports have been using facial recognition technology to confirm a traveller’s identity. While a biometric system that required fingerprints worked well, no contact identification would only be possible with facial recognition scanners. 

Hyderabad announced that they will be replacing their biometric systems with facial recognition technology in their government offices to check for attendance. This may soon be the case for other state government offices and even private firms. When the COVID-19 news broke, the biometric systems the first ones to be discontinued as a precautionary measure. 

Facial Recognition Technology: Advantages and what is at stake

While the technology continues to remain a threat to privacy, its accuracy and surveillance skills continue to remain its best attribute. Gurgaon based AI startup, Staqu, used this technology to help the police in tracking criminals by installing CCTV cameras everywhere and using an app to match the faces to their criminal profiles. It has definitely helped police find the right perpetrator and catch them sooner. 

Another advantage with the facial recognition system is that it processes the data at a much faster speed. It takes just a few seconds to ascertain the identity of the individual, which again, would be of great help to national security. Manual identification was wasting too much time in getting a workforce into action. 

Summing Up…

A post-COVID world would be a very cautious, fearful and selfish one. For the economy to continue operations, businesses would have to adhere to social distancing norms. Despite relevant privacy arguments during these testing times, facial recognition technology might just see a very big boost!


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