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article imageNew consumer app to control biometric information: Q&A Special

By Tim Sandle     Sep 24, 2018 in Technology
Whoo.ai have developed a consumer app to help people control how others can use their biometric information - particularly for facial recognition technologies. Arturo Falck, the co-founder and CEO of Whoo.ai explains more.
Whoo.ai has developed a new app appropriate for the today's world of information gathering and data privacy concerns. The product is called Who Knows Me. It enables users to see which companies are using (or suspected of using) facial recognition, and allows them to opt-out of being recognized. The app will soon be available in the App Store for public use.
To understand more about the product and the rise of biometric technology in general, Digital Journal spoke with Arturo Falck, who is the co-founder and CEO of Whoo.ai.
Digital Journal: What are the main security risks in the digital age?
Arturo Falck: Loss of privacy. We don’t think of this as a problem yet because our lives are generally boring to all but your closest friends and they get to see only very little of what we do.
We care deeply about the lives of our loved ones and close friends; and we care about what celebrities do; but we don’t generally care about what our neighbors, acquaintances and strangers do most of the time. So we assume that nobody cares about what we do either.
But just as celebrities’ lives are interesting because we get to see so much of them, your life is quickly becoming interesting to people who can see a lot of what you do. For them, the ubiquitous deployment of digital cameras coupled with facial recognition technology and Artificial Intelligence that can make sense of those feeds makes it possible to learn a lot about millions of us.
DJ: What are the benefits arising from increased data gathering?
Falck: Some of those people watching you want to learn how to sell you stuff or influence your behavior in one way or another. How they use those insights into who you are and what you do is what is dangerous about this loss of privacy.
We believe that Facial Recognition technology is a very valuable tool for improving our lives. We have been using it to help secure the visitor management in schools and there are many other legitimate uses of the technology; but it is undeniable that it can be easily abused, which is why we developed Who Knows Me. We developed Who Knows Me, which is a system that can recognize you but ONLY for the purpose of telling other computers to ignore you.
DJ: How sophisticated is such facial recognition technology?
Falck: Very. By some estimates computers can now recognize people with the same accuracy that we can and they can remember everybody!
DJ: Does facial recognition software itself have any security concerns?
Falck: The concerns have more to do with the loss of privacy in a world that is already saturated with video cameras. We have grown comfortable with being captured on camera everywhere because we assume that nobody cares about those images (unless something happens which triggers an investigation). However, that assumption is wrong. Companies are constantly analyzing their camera feeds for all kinds of purposes.
With the quick adoption of facial recognition technologies it is now possible for clever programmers to piece together all those streams in order to tell the story of what each individual person did. That can be a very powerful tool for both legitimate reasons and not.
DJ: Are many people concerned with data privacy?
Falck: No. In fact we were surprised by how few people are concerned at all (it seems like nobody has read George Orwell’s 1984). However, there is a small fraction of the population that cares deeply about data privacy (vis-a-vis their identity) and are very vocal in their opposition of anything related to facial recognition technology.
DJ: Is this why you developed Who Knows Me?
Falck: Yes. We became aware of the problem because we were spending so much of our time reassuring a tiny fraction of the population that we are responsible users of facial recognition technology. That’s when we realized that we could solve a much bigger problem: We could become a certification authority for the responsible use of facial recognition. Just like you trust websites that your browser tells you are secure because an authority is certifying their authenticity… you can trust that stores with our emblem use Facial Recognition technology in a responsible way.
DJ: How did you put the app together?
Falck: Ironically, the only way to opt-out of being recognized by a computer is to use Facial Recognition technology because the computers need to recognize the fact that you don’t want them to recognize you. We solved this problem by being an independent third party whose computers can tell others to ignore you.
We developed a system that can recognize your face but ONLY for the purpose of telling other systems to IGNORE you. Our system never asks you any questions about your identity nor tracks any metadata about. All we do is associate your facial signature to your preferences anonymously.
Our system has two distinct components. On one hand we developed an app that lets you understand how facial recognition is used and offers you a mechanism to opt out of being recognized at participating venues. On the other hand, participating venues check with our servers every time their cameras notice a new person but BEFORE they use their own facial recognition algorithms. If our computers tell them to IGNORE you, they are contractually obligated to refrain from recognizing you for any reason other than crime prevention.
We can certify that our members honor your preferences because we perform periodic random audits.
DJ: Does your technology appeal to certain demographic?
Falck: There is a small but very vocal percentage of the population in general that is very suspicious of the widespread use of facial recognition. Our own experience selling facial recognition visitor management systems at schools tells us that about 3% of urban Americans strongly dislike the loss of privacy that they perceive from having computers recognize them.
We expect that percentage to grow as more people become aware of just how pervasive facial recognition technology has become. Canadians, Australians and Britts seem to be a lot more sensitive (although we don’t have numbers yet). Europeans in general are much more aware of privacy issues (and are more protected thanks to GDPR). The quickest adoption of widespread use of Facial Recognition has been in Asia, particularly in China. It is not clear how sensitive people are about this issue there.
More about Facial recognition, Biometrics, Privacy, Big brother, Data
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