What is facial recognition? Exploring its rising impact

Kfir Yeshayahu

March 11, 2024

  • # Biometric Security
  • # Account Protection
  • # Identity Protection

Hackers can steal your email and password — but they can’t steal your face. 

Facial recognition technology, a rapidly evolving aspect of biometric authentication, has become a staple in digital security for exactly this reason. It uses advanced algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) to identify and verify you based on your facial features. 

Here’s a guide to what facial recognition is and its applications in real life.

What is facial recognition?

Facial recognition, or face recognition, is a type of biometric security that uses your unique facial features to identify or confirm your identity. This technology works alongside other biometric methods like voice, fingerprint, and eye recognition, though it’s increasingly more common because of its ease of use. 

Facial recognition systems are great for more than just logging into your phone. They can pick out faces in photos, videos, and even in real-time scenarios. Facebook can tell if you’re in a photo just by your facial features, and security cameras can spot previous shoplifters and criminals when they enter a store.

How does facial recognition work?

Picture a friend or family member in your head. They have specific facial features — down to the very last millimeter — that make them different from anyone else in the world. A face analyzer’s job is to pinpoint those unique features, with details ranging from the distance between the eyes to the shape of the jawline. 

But for the facial recognition system to work, it needs to have a database of faces to compare this information with. The goal is to match what the system sees to an existing face. Otherwise, the data it collects from photos and videos is meaningless.

Once a facial recognition system connects to a database, it scans either photos, videos, or real-time feeds to identify faces. It collects data about the size, shape, and relationships between different features and compares them to existing faces — hopefully finding a match. The catch is that people look similar, and the system might not be 100% accurate all the time.

What are the uses of facial recognition technology?

Facial recognition technology plays a key role in security, travel, and healthcare, just to name a few. Here are several areas where this technology is making an impact:

Security and law enforcement

Face analysis has become a common way to quickly identify individuals in crowded places or surveillance footage, aiding criminal investigations and enhancing public safety. Law enforcement agencies use it to spot persons of interest in real-time — much more accurately than the human eye could — and compare them with those in facial recognition databases.

Healthcare

Hospitals and clinics are adopting facial recognition for patient management. These systems ensure accurate patient identification, reducing errors in medical record handling. This technology is beneficial when patients can’t communicate their identity and need to receive the correct treatment.

Retail

Retailers use face recognition to offer personalized experiences to customers, identifying people who come in often and tailoring services to their preferences. On the other hand, it's a helpful tool for spotting people who’ve shoplifted in the past and preventing them from doing it again. 

Banking and finance

The banking sector employs facial recognition to enhance customer security in transactions and services. It's most common in mobile banking apps and at ATMs for verifying your identity, making sure the person accessing the account is authorized.

Travel and hospitality

Airports and hotels are incorporating facial recognition for faster check-in and customs processes. It simplifies identity verification, reducing wait times and improving overall customer experience.

Education

Educational institutions use facial recognition for various purposes, including monitoring attendance and enhancing campus security. This technology helps maintain a safe environment for students and staff alike by identifying unauthorized individuals on school premises.

5 benefits of facial recognition technology

Facial recognition technology offers a wide range of advantages, no matter where you’re using it:

  1. Enhanced security: One of the primary benefits of facial recognition is its ability to boost security significantly. Using unique facial features for identification minimizes the risk of unauthorized access, whether to a government building or your cell phone.

  2. Speed and convenience: Facial recognition technology streamlines identity verification processes. It’s easy to lose or compromise traditional methods like passwords or PINs, but a person’s face is a more reliable — and fast — identifier.

  3. High accuracy levels: Advancements in AI and machine learning have significantly improved the accuracy of facial recognition systems. While they aren’t perfect, they can sometimes even distinguish between identical twins. Some can also adapt to changes in appearance and accurately identify people in diverse lighting and angles.

  4. Fraud prevention: In the banking and finance sector, facial recognition authenticates transactions and verifies user identity, reducing the chances of financial fraud. It also helps monitor and prevent unauthorized access within banks and other institutions.

  5. Non-intrusive security: The contactless nature of facial recognition allows for identity verification without physical contact. It’s hygienic and more comfortable for people who don’t want to scan their fingerprints on a pad other people constantly touch.

Is facial recognition safe?

Facial recognition is safe, but it does have its criticisms. Some people aren’t comfortable with facial sensors, and less-developed systems have a history of misidentifying people. 

Here are some key topics in the face recognition conversation:

  • Privacy policies and consent: In some public places, you might not know if there’s a system reading your face — or where that data is going. All facial recognition systems should provide clear information on privacy policies and ask you to give informed consent before capturing and using your facial data.

  • Accuracy and misidentification: The technology's improving accuracy still has limitations. There’s a risk of misidentification, especially among certain demographic groups, raising concerns about fairness and discrimination.

  • Regulation and oversight: Facial recognition is relatively new, which means lawmakers are still developing regulatory frameworks. This includes laws and guidelines to govern how to use facial recognition technology in a way that respects privacy and human rights.

IronVest's decentralized biometrics

When you’re implementing biometric authentication and facial recognition in your life, it’s important to know where your data is going and why. That’s why IronVest uses decentralized biometrics and has transparent policies about your data. Not only will you protect your accounts with facial recognition, but you won’t have to worry about the fate of your biometrics.

Here’s how IronVest’s facial recognition keeps your data safe: 

  • Decentralized data storage: IronVest stores biometric data across a secure, distributed blockchain network, reducing the risk of large-scale data breaches. That means your personal identifiable information (PII) and biometric data are not in a single, vulnerable location. 

  • Continuous biometric verification: Using AuthenticAction™ technology, IronVest verifies your identity the whole time you access your accounts, enhancing protection against imposters or hackers.

  • User convenience with robust security: IronVest balances ease of use and strong protection, offering additional features like anonymized emails, virtual credit cards, and masked phone numbers.

5 tips for using facial recognition safely

You don’t have to run away from facial recognition to keep your data safe. Just learn how to use it securely and responsibly. Here are some essential digital security tips:

  1. Understand privacy settings: Before you agree to facial recognition, know how the system stores and uses your data. That way, you maintain control over your personal information and know exactly what the system is using your face for.

  2. Keep software updated: Regular updates often include security enhancements that protect against emerging threats and cyber attacks. You can make sure your facial recognition software is up-to-date by turning on automatic updates.

  3. Use multi-factor authentication: For added security, combine facial recognition with other authentication methods like passwords or PINs, especially for sensitive applications.

  4. Stay informed in public spaces: Be cautious and aware about using public facial recognition systems like retail stores or city surveillance. If you’re worried about it, you can wear a face mask or facial recognition-blocking glasses that prevent systems from recognizing your whole face.

  5. Know your rights: Educate yourself about your rights regarding facial recognition technology, particularly in workplaces or other areas. 

4 other biometric identification technologies

Facial recognition isn’t the only option. Many other biometric technologies are revolutionizing identification and security processes. Here are some of their unique advantages and applications:

  1. Fingerprint recognition: One of the most common and widely used biometric methods, fingerprint recognition analyzes the patterns of ridges and valleys on your fingerprint.

  2. Iris recognition: This technology scans the unique patterns of your iris, the colored ring outside of your pupil. Known for its high accuracy, iris recognition is used in high-security areas and is gaining popularity in banking for secure transactions.

  3. Voice recognition: Voice recognition technology allows for secure phone transactions and virtual assistant access by analyzing your inflections and vocal tone. It’s convenient for hands-free operations and customer service applications.

  4. Retina scanning: Retina scanning involves analyzing the pattern of blood vessels at the back of the eye. It's one of the most secure biometric methods, which is why it’s most common in critical security areas where high accuracy is paramount.

The power of IronVest’s biometric technology 

Facial recognition and other biometric technologies provide a secure, convenient, and efficient way of verifying your identity — and it’s a huge leap for security measures in various industries. If you want to implement it in your own life, use IronVest. 

IronVest’s biometric authentication system uses facial recognition to let you into your accounts, securing everything from your bank to your social media. You’ll prevent identity theft, stay safe in the face of scams, and reduce the effects of phishing and other threats. IronVest paves the way for a safer online experience. Try it today.

Learn More

About Biometric Fraud Prevention and Passwordless Solutions for Banks