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Facial recognition technology will change the way we live | The Economist

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Published on Nov 1, 2017

Facial recognition technology will transform the way we live in 2018. Machines that can read and recognise our faces will go mainstream, opening up exciting possibilities and posing new dangers

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In 2018 machines that can read your face will go mainstream, changing the way we live. Your face will become your password, unlocking smartphones and bank accounts, but the technology will also have the power to covertly track your movements.

It will even be able to guess your sexuality through facial features alone. In 2018 we'll be forced to face the future.

The human face has an astonishing variety of features which not only help us recognize others, but read and understand them through a constant flow of intentional and unintentional signals. It's one of the unique functions that separates man from machine, until now.

Pioneering facial recognition technology hasn't yet hit the mainstream. In 2018 it will be in our pockets. But using your face to unlock your phone is just the beginning.

In the suburbs of Israel's financial center, Tel Aviv, a team of engineers is at the forefront of a technological revolution. They're teaching machines to read faces.

The software has the power to identify one face from millions in under one second and it's this precision that makes the technology an effective new tool for surveillance.

Retail stores are using this technology to generate data on customers; tracking their shopping habits and targeting in-store adverts. Churches are even using facial recognition to monitor attendance, and one school in the UK wants to use it to keep tabs on teachers.

There's one country that's ahead of the game, China. Companies have access to a government image database of 700 million people, half its population. But there's the potential for more sinister applications. Researchers have shown that your face can point to your sexuality.

This new ability to record, store, and analyze images of faces on a vast scale will fundamentally change notions of privacy, fairness, and trust.

But tech companies are forging ahead with their plans to make facial recognition an everyday part of our lives.

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