Would you use facial recognition on your employees?

An R&D partnership could pave the way for a US-wide biometric database.
5 November 2018

AI security cameras using facial recognition technology. Source: NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP

For companies dealing with large volumes of sensitive internal and external data, security— and ensuring only a select handful of actors have appropriate access— is a major priority.

In a post-GDPR climate, and in the wake of a number of high-profile data scandals— Facebook for one, and more recently that which led to the sun-setting of Google Plus— the sentiment has never been truer. Companies are exploring more advanced ways to ensure secure access to information, swiftly and efficiently.

With employees often working remotely from one another, if not just across multiple devices, keeping tabs on who has access to which files, and how secure each of their systems are, is no easy task; in many cases, an encrypted, centralized password document and a healthy dose of trust can only go so far.

One solution lies in biometrics and facial recognition.

Imagine, for example, if when a ‘non-authorized’ user was in the room, sensitive information could be automatically blocked on-screen, or if you could be given a list of everyone in on screen, including their job title, function, and security clearance, when you were having a conference call.

That could be achievable if your employees’ biometric data could be quickly cross-checked with a centralized database, and a partnership between US biometrics and fingerprinting firm SureID and Robbie.AI, an AI-based facial recognition authentication startup, means this kind of tech could soon be made a reality.

An authorized FBI ‘channeler’, which means it can attain US citizens’ government data for those looking to work or study abroad, SureID claims to be within a 30-minute commute of most Americans via more than 800 fingerprinting kiosks.

The research and development partnership with Robbie.AI seeks to combine that scale with facial recognition, in what could lay the groundwork for a US-wide database of biometric information able to be integrated across countless platforms where users require verification.

“As technology emerges and companies adopt more sophisticated forms of security, it will be crucial for safety and security to authenticate the real identity of technicians and consumers,” Ned Hayes, General Manager at SureID told ZDNet.

Up until now, much of Robbie.AI’s focus has been on predicting customer emotions in video conferencing or on retailers’ surveillance cameras, the goal being to predict purchase behavior and optimize selling or marketing techniques as a result.

As such, it’s developed advanced facial recognition technology and, perhaps most significantly, has rolled it out as cloud-based SaaS that’s quick and easy to plug in. 

“Our combined biometrics database can provide a frame of reference for the development of future security solutions on the market,” added Hayes. “SureID and Robbie.AI are providing industry-transforming biometrics and identity offerings to make the security world safer, faster, and a better experience for everyone.”

While biometric databasing, in particular, is wont to get privacy advocates hot under the collar— and that’s not surprising, it’s about as personal as data gets— it’s not a stretch to see how a cross-platform integration of such technology could be a boon to convenient, easily-rolled-out verification technology.

Convincing users to submit both their fingerprints and facial ID to a database will have to come with assurances, but anyone who bought an iPhone in the last four years has probably used a fingerprint scanner— and those who bought the iPhone X may well already use Face ID to unlock their handset. It’s not new ground. 

While it’s always going to be a toss-up between convenience and access on the one hand and privacy on the other, this kind of technology will be most effectively deployed on a strategic and sparing basis. Employers would be wiser, for example, to reserve this capability for security clearance relating to financial information and strategic planning rather than for sharing the social media rota.