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Can facial recognition protect children’s health and ensure their safety on Internet?

Many of us have already used our face to unlock our smartphone at least, or perform more sensitive operations such as consulting our bank account online. Facial recognition is nowadays one of the most reliable and secure technological solutions to avoid identity theft in any form. It is also easy for the user to implement.

Can facial recognition play a role in fighting hyper-connection among children in France? Could we go even further and imagine using it to protect minors from websites reserved for adults? Two child welfare associations, e-Enfance and La Voix de l’Enfant, have denounced a lack of measures on this topic.

Hyper connection, adult content that’s easily accessible to minors: what do you need?

With young French people spending an average of four hours a day on screens, hyper connection is a very real danger to children’s physical and mental health. There are growing concerns related to cognitive risks in connection with the over use of screens. There may be complications for brain development and the learning of core skills. This is why research is increasingly being conducted to establish its actual impact. In the meantime, ID checking technology like facial recognition and biometrics may prove to be effective solutions available to parents who would like to limit their children’s screen time.

Nearly a third of children have already been exposed to pornography by the age of 12.

Another danger for our children is the possibility of easily bypassing authorisations to access adult content, as denounced by two child welfare associations: e-Enfance and La Voix De l’Enfant. All you need to do is say that you are over 18 to gain access to the website. The domestic violence law voted in 2020 established that a box to tick is insufficient proof of good faith and the procedure cannot relieve the website in question of its responsibilities.

Unfortunately, the law remains ineffective with respect to these websites belonging to firms based abroad. And nearly a third of children have already been exposed to pornography by the age of 12,. La Voix De l’Enfant and e-Enfance have decided to circumvent this problem by filing a suit against the main Internet service providers who do also have a role to play in this fight. Some of the accused have said they would cut off access to the websites in question should a judge so rule. In the meantime, ID checking technology like facial recognition, which has proved to be reliable and easy to implement, could be implemented here too, with interesting results. French legislators need to address the topic!

Does ID checking technology comply with personal data regulations?

While people may not like scanning their face with a camera, in theory there is nothing to be afraid of. Solutions offering facial recognition as a means of access must work reliably and instantaneously and retain zero data. The same goes for biometric recognition. When it is used on a private telephone, it can for example store the size of our fingerprint scanned on the device, in a partitioned environment which is not accessible from elsewhere.

Facial recognition works thanks to training: the software analyses hundreds and thousands of photos, with the aim of learning to make a unique digital signature using the human face. With this learning, the solution can make sure that the face recognised corresponds to the one scanned on the ID document supplied. Artificial intelligence goes even further since it can cater to variations caused by ageing. So it recognises the same person on photos taken several years previously. It can also factor in variations in luminosity.

ID checking solutions can thus be used to with a view to checking the user’s age as a reliable solution that preserves personal data to protect minors from accessing unsuitable content. Integrated into a parental control filter, these solutions can help parents block access to websites they consider to be unsuitable for their children, as well as limiting screen time.

The issue nowadays is to determine how best to use this technology without imposing it and while respecting personal freedom. Since 2020, several white papers have been filed, especially with the European commission, to push for the adoption of artificial intelligence while ensuring security and basic rights for citizens and firms. One sure thing is that ID checking technology, and especially facial recognition, will continue to progress, becoming ever more amazing. There are interesting possibilities for its use, although we need to think it through carefully to make sure individual freedom is preserved. While regulations still have a long way to go, we can expect facial recognition to become ever more popular.

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