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IEEE takes on biometric standards for facial recognition to avoid social harms

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The IEEE is working on creating standards for biometric facial recognition to address social concerns related to the technology with a working group, the IEEE Spectrum reports.

The organization has created the P7013 Inclusion and Application Standards for Automated Facial Analysis Technology.

The lack of technical standards for facial recognition has been cited by city officials in Somerville and Oakland as a reason for banning the technology.

“IEEE is moving away from writing standards that are strictly related to a technology, process, or device into those that address societal concerns,” comments IEEE Senior Member Marie-Jose Montpetit, who chairs the IEEE P7013 working group. “Facial recognition happens to be a technology that has many such concerns, such as privacy, racial and gender bias, and inaccuracy.

“As a member of the public, I am also concerned that facial-recognition software might be used in inappropriate ways by law enforcement and other organizations. My interest is making sure that we develop the standards necessary for the technology to be used ethically and when necessary.

“As a citizen, I agree with the temporary bans, because I realize a lot of the algorithms in the software aren’t accurate enough to be considered nonbiased. Once the algorithms improve, the regular use of this software may become more acceptable,” she concludes.

The working group plans to define acceptable standards, establish accuracy reporting and data diversity protocols, and outline a rating system to evaluate whether facial recognition should be used in various contexts.

NIST has also been called upon to create standards to help avoid racial bias, which would be at least in part a matter of data diversity protocols.

Montpetit says a review of use cases can be used to define compliance standards for the technology, including capturing data, analyzing movement, and activity detection. The working group also has a goal to create a guide for ethical use of facial recognition software. Once the standards are in place, she says, they can support government oversight of the technology’s use.

The working group is currently accepting new participants.

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