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The dark side of facial recognition technology? Ways to protect yourself

As facial recognition software grows more advanced, the music industry has made lofty moves towards integrating the technology at live music events.

Facial recognition is a biometric software used to identify and authenticate a person uniquely by scanning their face. Identification finds out who you are, and authentication tries to establish if you are the person you say you are. Facial recognition technology has become very popular in recent years. The facial recognition market is projected to be valued at 10.9 billion by 2025, a 17.6 percent increase from the 2019 market value of $4.4 billion.

Halfway into 2020, the world is already seeing an increase in interactions with facial
recognition technology. Big eCommerce companies in China and the US are using face
authentication to create cardless payment options. Facial recognition tech is also extending to other smart technologies such as home security systems and smart TVs. The hospitality and travel industries are expected to adopt face detection tech on a large scale to streamline operations.

However, the new technology has been met with much resistance in the live music and entertainment industries. The Glitch Mob spoke out against Live Nation’s move to integrate facial recognition into their ticketing programs. Several large-scale music festivals, including Bonnaroo, Electric Forest, ACL, and more, have also pledged to not use facial recognition at their events. More festivals and their production teams joined that cause not long after.

A long way from smartphones…

The prevalence of facial recognition technology is primarily driven by its benefits over
traditional surveillance systems. Government agencies and private entities are rapidly rolling out applications with facial recognition capabilities fast. Here are some pros and cons of facial recognition technology.


  • Marketing. Marketers are using facial recognition technology to present individuals with promotional content tailored for their demographic, all in an effort to personalize customer experience for the consumer. The retail industry is set to reap significant benefits from facial recognition technology.
  • Healthcare. The healthcare industry is investing significant resources into face detection technology because of its benefits in detecting genetic diseases and preventing data breaches. Facial recognition improves data security in healthcare, which goes a long way when it comes to preventing fraud.
  • Security. The main benefit of face detection software is the detection and prevention of crime. In the US, the Department of Homeland Security is using facial recognition technology to identify and track people who may be under criminal investigation and those who have outstayed their visas. Facial recognition tech has been monumental in preventing child trafficking and finding missing children and disoriented adults.


  • Privacy. One of the biggest concerns when it comes to facial recognition tech is privacy. Face detection systems give government agencies the power to keep tabs on our activities in public spaces. Law enforcement can use the tech to identify and track anyone, even if they are not doing anything suspicious. This is an infringement of constitutional freedoms of expression and association and should not be tolerated.
  • Misuse. Facial recognition technology is prone to misuse. For instance, facial analysis tech can be used to target people participating in protected speech. The Baltimore Police Department, for example, used facial recognition software to identify and arrest individuals during the protests that followed the death of Freddie Gray.
  • Racial Bias. Facial recognition systems are not very accurate when it comes to identifying the faces of racial minorities. Multiple studies have shown that facial recognition software often misidentifies black people (especially black women), young people, and women. Due to racially biased police practices, criminal databases have a disproportionate number of African Americans and other racial minorities.

The drawbacks of facial recognition technology greatly outweigh the benefits. As you can
see, people opposing facial recognition technology have a good reason, and we can’t just
ignore their concerns. Facial recognition technology has been proven to be unreliable time and again, and there’s not enough legislation around its use. So, how do we protect ourselves from this intrusive technology? Well, there’s a number of ways to secure your facial recognition data.

Since face detection systems cannot work without photos, the best way to stay out of their radar is to be selfish with your face. On public spaces, wear anti-facial recognition glasses or a face mask to conceal key facial features. On social media, start by turning off Facebook’s facial recognition software and review your privacy settings to control who sees the photos you post. Using a VPN to secure your information from snooping is also an effective way to protect your data when surfing the internet.

This article was authored by guest contributor, Brad Smith.

brad smith

Brad Smith is a technology expert at TurnOnVPN, a non-profit promoting a safe, secure, and censor-free internet. He writes about his dream for free internet and unravels the horror behind big techs.