Face recognition is already a sensitive topic, after widespread reports have raised the need for regulations and the perils of mass scale surveillance that it can promote. There is, however, no denying that face recognition has become increasingly ubiquitous around the world, and there is a growing window of usage of the technology across public infrastructure, corporates and services as well. Now, the ongoing 2021 Face Recognition Vendor Test (FRVT) study conducted by the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has revealed that when it comes to face recognition, Japanese company NEC is the very best in the business.
A press release shared on the matter by an NEC spokesperson has claimed that the company has been evaluated to bear 99.78 percent accuracy in recognition of faces from among 12 million photos from a database. The test was held for the large scale 1:n face recognition service, which is reportedly the tool of choice in various sectors such as digital ID and contactless ticketing in public areas, financial services such as digital payments, and more. NEC also states that it has been ranked as number one for face recognition services when used with databases of photos taken more than 10 years ago.
Make of this what you will. The company’s services are clearly proficient enough, and as a result, there will always be questions around the ethics of such a tool, and debates around exactly what kind of regulation will be deemed sufficient are yet to be exhaustive. Interestingly, NEC claims that it was among the first commercial vendors to have sold a face recognition platform that is proficient even when people are wearing masks — an eerie enough prospect. The company labels this as work that will “quickly respond to social needs". Its attempts to address concerns are largely self-regulatory, wherein it states, “Based on the NEC Group AI and Human Rights Principles, NEC will continue to give top priority to privacy considerations and respect for human rights when using data such as AI and biometric information."
Whether communities can really put their faith in carefully phrased words of corporates or not remains on how you see the topic. We have earlier reported how facial recognition services can be dicey. In India, companies such as EnableX have carefully pitched face recognition systems that they’ve claimed will not infringe user privacy, while known suppliers to law enforcement bodies, such as Innefu Labs, have clearly stated that their involvement and control over the ethical and operational bits of face recognition services ended with them supplying the tech to the bodies. It is this that makes the matter of grave concern, and the fact that NEC has now received a certification for its proficiency is an intriguing juncture at the least.