MANY TECHNOLOGICAL ASPECTS of science fiction are
seamlessly becoming a part of people’s everyday lives. The writings of Isaac Asimov, George Orwell, and Aldous Huxley shared
what the authors envisioned as the future. Their stories transported readers to worlds that were limited only by the author’s
imagination. Television viewers can also relate with shows like
Star Trek, while movies like Back to the Future also envisioned
possible futuristic and technological advances.
Many of those concepts have become reality. Consider space
travel, drones, cell phones, biometrics, wearable devices, and the
use of lasers. Automatic doors, video calls, and robots that vacuum carpets are daily conveniences of everyday life. Automakers
are on the cusp of bringing self-driving cars to the mainstream.
Alexa, Echo, and Google Home have brought artificial intelligence into our dwellings, listening in on personal family lives
and responding on cue to inquiries and demands. While Alexa
can’t make dinner, she can order meal delivery on command.
Images are captured everywhere today. Facial recognition computer software now exceeds a person’s ability to recognize faces
in a sea of images. Facial recognition—no longer in the realm of
science fiction—is a form of biometric technology that must be
recognized and managed to its best advantage in health information management (HIM), and used in accordance with HIPAA
regulations. Facial images are increasingly included in electronic
health records (EHRs) as a means of identifying the correct patient receiving healthcare services, of guarding protected health
information from identity theft, and as a diagnostic tool.
Facial recognition is not 100 percent accurate, but it is improving rapidly. Biometrics is predicted to quickly replace two-factor
authentication and will speed up registration, information access, information management, and treatment processes. Facial
recognition could potentially serve as a federated patient identity—more commonly referred to as a national patient identifier.
Many people agreed with author Jeffrey Rosen when he wrote,
“Before Sept. 11, the idea that Americans would voluntarily agree
to live their lives under the gaze of a network of biometric surveillance cameras, peering at them in government buildings, shopping
malls, subways and stadiums, would have seemed unthinkable, a
dystopian fantasy of a society that had surrendered privacy and
1 Times sure have changed. Cameras everywhere are
accumulating billions of images used in facial recognition systems.
People are now accustomed and desensitized to the increasingly
pervasive use of surveillance cameras. Sometimes cameras are
easily observed, while others are concealed. Whether we like it or
not, cameras are nearly everywhere people travel in their daily routines, and are making their way into healthcare.
Widening the Aperture: Cameras are Everywhere
Cameras are a helpful tool to thwart and solve crimes. Police
body cameras are being introduced where budgets allow. Security cameras are recording 24/7 in many public and private industries, parks, libraries, banks, schools and colleges, shopping malls,
churches, sports arenas, and city streets. Employee photo ID badges are worn in many industries.
Surveillance camera systems are now affordable for personal
use. Homeowners are installing advanced motion-activated se-
curity systems with multiple cameras indoors and out, which are
accessible remotely and online. Personal dash cameras are used as
evidence in vehicle accident claims. Webcams are a standard fea-
ture on personal computers, tablets, and smartphones. Photos and
impromptu “selfies” are shared on social media sites. The reader
may be viewing this article on a device that has a camera. Billions
of images serve as a vast data pool for facial recognition systems.
Many EHRs in healthcare facilities, clinics, and physician offices
also contain images for patient identification.
Point and Shoot: Facial Recognition and How It Works
Facial recognition is a form of biometric technology employ-
ing geometrical (or photometric) statistical methods to identify
and compare a single facial image against other facial images
in a database. An image of a person’s face is identified when a
match is found. There are several different ways a facial match
can occur when attempting to identify an individual using facial
recognition. According to the authors of a recent white paper
on the topic, “Facial recognition algorithms can be classified as
appearance-based, feature-based, and texture-based.”
“Appearance-based algorithms usually rely on the global sem-
blance of features,” they explain. “Feature-based algorithms es-
tablish a relationship among facial features and perform match-
ing. Texture-based algorithms rely on facial texture information.”
Facial recognition uses an individual’s facial image, which is con-
sidered a physical body trait of biometrics. People have become very
familiar with other physical body traits such as fingerprints and DNA
testing, thanks to many popular criminal investigative television
shows. Other forms of physical body traits include iris recognition,
hand vein pattern recognition, palm prints, and voice prints. Bio-
metric identification continues to expand using physical body traits
and evolving technologies. Industries are recognizing the advantag-
es of biometrics and are including this item in their budgets.
Innumerable images can be scanned and reviewed much quicker than the human eye. This technology has greatly surpassed what
can be accomplished by a human being. Facial recognition technology can now clear fuzzy pictures, pick out people in a crowd,
and differentiate between genetically identical twins. Partial faces
or profiles can also be reconstructed to produce a full-face view.
Image Stabilization: Moving to a Biometric
Author Steven Nelson noted in an October 2016 article in U.S. News
and World Report that “At least half of American adults are already
in a police facial recognition network according to a report published by Georgetown University’s Center on Privacy and Technology.”
3 Millions of images have been accumulated from driver’s
licenses, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) database, and
others. The United States is growing ever nearer to forming a single
government biometric database for total surveillance. While the
thought is shocking and objectionable to many, for law enforcement a single facial recognition database is a welcomed resource
to apprehend criminals and protect the public. It is possible that
the facial image for readers of this article already exists somewhere
in a facial recognition database.
Exposure Time: Privacy Concerns
Health records are under attack due to the valuable demograph-
Smile, You’re on