Common Core: RH.6-8.1, RH.6-8.2, RH.6-8.4, RH.6-8.6, RH.6-8.8, WHST.6-8.1, WHST.6-8.5, RI.6-8.1, RI.6-8.2, RI.6-8.4, RI.6-8.6, RI.6-8.8, RI.6-8.10, W.6-8.1, W.6-8.5, SL.6-8.1

NCSS: Culture • Time, Continuity, and Change • Individuals, Groups, and Institutions • Science, Technology, and Society

SolStock/Getty Images (Teen); (Ticket)


Pick a Side

Should Your Face Be Your Ticket?

Facial recognition software is making getting into concerts and sporting events easier than ever. But could it lead to more problems than it’s worth? 

Picture this: You’re finally about to see your favorite band in concert. But you’re running late—and the lines at the stadium are superlong. Fortunately, there is a special lane just for ticketholders who preregistered a selfie. A monitor scans your face and checks it against the photo on file. Within seconds, you’re in!

For many people, that ease is the whole point of facial recognition. The process uses sophisticated software to measure and remember a person’s face (see "Finding Your Faceprint," below). Today a growing number of public spaces are using facial recognition technology, including arenas, airports, Major League Baseball stadiums, and theme parks. 

Yet some people are concerned about facial recognition’s increasing role. In many cases, companies store a lot of personal data along with the picture of each face. That could include information about your family, your Facebook profile, even your bank account. The data could be given or sold to other companies or stolen by criminals. 

Are the risks that go along with facial recognition worth the convenience? Read arguments on both sides, then decide for yourself.

The ID of the Future

Facial recognition is making our daily lives easier, supporters believe. “You don’t need to remember a physical ticket or have a smartphone,” says Derek Riley, a technology expert at the Milwaukee School of Engineering in Wisconsin. And there is very little risk of someone else using your ticket, because no one else has your exact face.

People who are developing facial recognition describe it as the ID of the future. Mary Haskett is the co-founder of Blink Identity, a company that supplies the service to concert venues. She likens each scan to a “barcode of your face.” Consider the countless places you might have to show identification to prove who you are, such as a bank or even your school cafeteria, she says. Then imagine being able to just look at a monitor instead. “Facial recognition [simplifies] a task that people do dozens of times every day.” 

Besides, says Haskett, facial recognition is becoming a daily reality. Soon you’ll be unlocking your phone with your face, if you aren’t already. New technology is almost always scary, she says, but it can improve lives. “It is much more important to shape this process” for the better, Haskett says, rather than “trying to wish it didn’t exist.”

Finding Your Faceprint

Here’s how facial recognition systems identify you. 

1. Detection: The system determines whether it is seeing a face. This is what is happening when a box appears around a head on your phone’s camera.

2. Analysis: Software analyzes your features, including the precise shape and size of your eyes, lips, and jaw, as well as the distance between them, to create a faceprint (right).

3. Recognition: The system compares your faceprint with ones in its database to find a match—usually very quickly. 

Potential for Misuse 

But many Americans fear facial recognition is a serious threat to our privacy and freedoms. One critic is Caitlin Seeley George, a director of Fight for the Future, which promotes people’s digital rights. She says many businesses are collecting a database of sensitive information about you along with your face. 

“Companies could sell this information to other companies,” she says. Why is that a problem? For one thing, businesses could use this data to target you with ads seeking to manipulate you into buying their products. Your information could also be hacked by thieves, she adds. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the practice of using stolen data to open new bank accounts under a victim’s name grew by 32 percent in 2022.

Even that easy “ticket” of your face could be used against you. For instance, security personnel at Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall in New York City have denied certain people entry. Why? Facial recognition identified them as employees of law firms that were suing the venues’ owners. 

Also, critics say, the technology often misidentifies people, which could lead to enormous headaches. Your phone might refuse to unlock when it’s time to make an important call. You could even miss a concert or flight because the software gets your identity wrong. “These all might seem like minor things, but they have real, measurable impacts on people’s lives,” George says.


Make Your Case

Make a list of reasons that support your opinion on facial recognition. Use information from the article, personal experience, and your own research. Then write an essay arguing for or against using your face as your ID.

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