border, customs, face, psychology, science

Daily Mail Calls for More Facial Recognition Technology at Borders?

The UK Daily Mail calls for more facial recognition technology at borders, but it is pretty hard to decode that from the article, as published.

The Daily Mail recently published an article about “facial recognition” stating that because humans can be confused while comparing a neutrally-posed facial photo to the live subject standing before them, it follows that “facial recognition technology needs to be upgraded.”

I agree, with a caveat. I’m all for adopting facial recognition technology (SecurLinx does great work in this field). The upgrading will come later.

The article makes a bit of a hash of the problem by muddling the very different processes by which humans and biometric facial recognition technologies do what they do to process visual inputs and, upon a quick read, takes a psychological study of how humans process visual information related to the faces of other people and assumes that those findings apply perfectly to technological biometric facial recognition systems. They don’t.

The observations of Rob Jenkins, Glasgow University Psychologist, actually argue for the increased use of facial recognition technology as currently on offer as an aide to human border agents along the lines advanced in an earlier post (Facial Recognition vs Human) & (Facial Recognition + Human).

A technology assisted human should outperform both a stand-alone technology and unaided humans.

On another note, the psychology surrounding how people (and wasps!) recognize faces is very interesting. The paper by Dr. Jenkins that seems to have the most bearing on facial recognition technology can be read here [pdf].

The paper is a little more skeptical of facial recognition technology than is warranted because the authors envision facial recognition technology as essentially aspiring to be a poor replication of the fallible neurological process rather than an augmentation of what humans do by coming at the problem from a completely different angle.

We suggest that a major attraction of using facial appearance to establish identity is that we accept it can be done in principle. In fact, we experience practical success every day because the system that has solved it is the human brain. The proliferation of ‘biologically inspired’ approaches to automatic face recognition reflects the willingness of computer engineers to model the brain’s success. Yet, psychological studies have shown that human expertise in face identification is much more narrow than is often assumed. Moreover, the process that most automatic systems attempt to model lies outside 1672 R. Jenkins & A. M. Burton Review. Stable face representations. From this perspective, disappointment in machine systems is inevitable, as they model a process that fails. Human limitations in face identification are not widely appreciated even within cognitive psychology, and seldom penetrate cognate fields in engineering and law. In §3, we offer an overview of the most pertinent limitations. For this purpose, we focus specifically on evidence from face matching tasks, as these directly address a problem that is common to security and forensic applications.

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