Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Amazon Utilizes Facial Recognition Technology

Amazon, the online retail and technology company, is creating a new way for customers to verify their identity at checkout-- with a selfie. Using facial recognition software, Amazon hopes to eliminate password security measures, making purchases safer. Amazon has not launched this new innovation yet but the system would prompt users to blink or smile to ensure the right person is at the checkout, not a hacker or computer program. Facial recognition software is an expert system, increasing in popularity as security issues grow. It works through a series of algorithms that match computer data to human faces. The technology is used extensively in police surveillance to recognize suspects. Amazon strives to utilize the latest information systems available to provide the best customer experience. Online retail continues to increase in popularity and Amazon has certainly grown as a result. Amazon often takes an unconventional approach to IT in order to ensure customers are met with convenience and the company benefits overall. As the article points out, passwords are a dated technology that can easily be hacked and taken advantage of. Similarly, users often forget or lose passwords and must go through steps to recover web accounts. With facial recognition, both Amazon and the customer can feel safe making online sales and purchases. The artificial intelligence behind facial recognition software utilized by Amazon increases the human element technology often lacks. Other companies, including Master Card and Windows are also developing and employing facial recognition systems as a means of protecting user’s personal technology accounts and diminishing fraud.

In viewing this technology from all sides, it is important to note that facial recognition software assumes users have access to a smartphone or personal computer with a high definition camera. While it is true many American consumers use smartphones, not all of Amazon’s customers will be able to pay with a selfie. Another possible downside would be the technology failing. If the expert system cannot identify a user's face at any given point, Amazon will lose a customer. Unless the technology is 100% accurate, Amazon will need to have a backup or secondary form of customer identification. According to PBS, facial recognition technology is most accurate in a controlled environment with proper lighting. John Gabrieli, a neuroscientist at MIT, explains that computer algorithms have not been able to fully capture facial recognition on the same level as the human brain. While the technology will continue to develop, computer scientists are working to program computers in a way that mirrors the human brain.

Amazon's patent includes the following sketch of moving facial recognition software:    


  1. Amazon using facial recognition technology to better the customer experience seems like a neat idea. The idea that instead of a password customers can just take a selfie to check out makes sense, but could amazon have other motivations for doing this? What better way for a company to obtain, gender, racial, age, and other demographic information about their customers then having their pictures on record. Using this system amazon could find out who the predominant buyers of a certain product are. They could then recommend the same product to other customers whose pictures reveal similar age or race information. This seems like it could potentially be a huge moneymaker for the company. The next question becomes, do we want companies to be able to store facial data? Some people might appreciate the recommendations that could come from it, but others may believe that information should be kept private. What’s to stop Amazon from selling that information? Legally, I do not think anything. I would hope they would allow customers to opt out of this type of password and continue using traditional password systems. All that being said, most of this is just my personal speculation. Maybe Amazon does not want to use/store facial information in any way, but is only trying to protect these accounts. Either way, we should be skeptical as customers of what data companies have on us.

  2. While I think the utilization of facial technology is an interesting idea, with several benefits, I see more problems. The benefits would be clear, there would be more security for the consumer, and the ability for an account to be hacked would be lowered. Yet, how accurate will this facial recognition be? What if an individual sets up their account with the facial recognition, and it fails to always recognize it is that individual? Will it be accurate enough to tell the difference between siblings, such as twins? These are all questions that would only be answered when these problems would begin to occur. In addition, as you stated, the room must be well lit, which would be difficult if someone was in a darker room attempting to order a product they would like. Also, if this were a shared account, would the account holder be able to upload multiple faces to the account. For example, many people make an Amazon Prime account and share the password with their children so they can also enjoy the benefits without having to pay for an additional subscription. I think that the only true solution to keeping your information safe from hackers would be not to save any of it to Amazon. It may take more time to type the credit card number in every time, but in the end that is the only proven way to keep ones credit card number away from hackers.

  3. I must say that I would have to disagree with this type of technology. While it is a good idea in theory I don't think that it is all that safe. I know for me I do not even save my credit card information into websites just to make sure that my identity will not get stolen. I would not feel comfortable with a company like amazon having not only my credit card information but also my picture. Obviously, it is okay for public officials to keep this data because it is part of their job however, Amazon does not need it. I agree with the fact that Amazon is going to be losing customers if this software is not 100% accurate. Amazon is one of the biggest retail companies that exists today and implementing a technology like this is risky and would lose them a lot of clients. I also agree with Emily's comment on how many families share one amazon account, and that is the same situation that I have as well. If my mom is the account holder and I try to buy something using her account, I won't be able to because my picture would not be in the system. What Amazon could do is allow for multiple users on each account so that different members of one's family will be able to purchase items. But that even develops into a security issue if parents do not want their kids online. I believe that Amazon can produce a better means of ensuring safe purchases on their website without using this method.

  4. I think this article is very interesting, especially in an age where the use of facial recognition technology as increased in recent years. I recently read an article where this facial recognition aspect was used to analyze consumer satisfaction, so using this technology to increase security on online shopping site. A huge company like Amazon can afford to experiment and develop this technology, which would allow them to advance ahead of their competitors.Many other markets have used facial recognition to increase security, including credit card companies and various smart phones, such as Android. However, I do also agree that this technology may cause multiple problems, and increase customer frustration if there are any issues on the site. I believe that facial recognition will soon become a common form of security within online shopping, however companies such as Amazon will have to develop and test these systems immensely before releasing them to the public.

  5. I feel like this type of technology will have both a lot of positive feedback and a lot of negative feedback. Amazon is right saying that passwords are outdated. Given that just about everything requires a password now, people either use the same password for everything or have too many to remember. This poses two different problems. The first could end in a hacker having access to all your accounts and the second could result in forgetting what password goes with each account. With a company that has people's credit card numbers, users want access to their account and they want it to be safe. Facial recognition could appear to be the solution to this problem.

    Because this is a new concept, there are a lot of doubts. The facial recognition would have to be very advanced to recognize the person's face at any random time they want to make an order. It would need to account for different angles, if someone gets a tan, if someone smiles a certain way, or a woman's makeup. With all of these potential differences, the recognition might be vague enough that someone who looks like the user could pull off being that person.

    The technology is promising, but it needs more development and testing before Amazon could be sure of its success or failure.

  6. Since this is still in its experimental stages there aren't many negative things I can say about it. I think it's a pretty good idea and I agree with the bulk of the blog. I think the most important thing that you point out is what happens if the technology fails? Are there going to be other measures in place to prevent the sale from falling apart all together? If the technology doesn't recognize someone then the blog is right, people will buy their products else ware. I think you have to look at the opposite side as well. What if the software picks up on someones picture and it really isn't them? This has to be 100% accurate to really work well. Amazon is a really big company with good ideas so they have the money to try and do these types of experiments. If they get it right then all power to them. Good post!


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