Speech, speaker and facial recognition

Authentication by facial recognition concept. Biometric admittance control device for security system. Asian man using face scanner to unlock glass door in office building.

Speech, speaker and facial recognition systems can make our everyday lives safer and easier. For instance, we can use this technology to simplify unlocking devices (and to protect our privacy), expedite border crossings and give commands to smart devices. At the same time, these systems are gaining access to our public and private lives, and they collect biometric data that – in addition to identifying who we are – could conceivably be used to draw conclusions about our emotional state, our personality or our health.

Focus of the study

This interdisciplinary study assesses the opportunities and risks of speech, speaker and facial recognition systems. The study aims to create an overview of what these technologies can actually achieve. Major questions concern how accurately speech, speaker and facial recognition systems can identify individuals and subsequently verify identities as well as the extent to which conclusions on emotions, personal characteristics or health are based in scientific findings. Current and future areas of application are presented in the interest of gaining a clear picture of the technology. The aim is to show who is currently using these systems and to what purpose – and how this use could develop in future. An important aspect concerns how the general public sees the issue, and the study examines how Swiss citizens regard the use of these technologies in public and private spaces, and the extent to which they differentiate private and governmental uses. Of particular interest is whether users are aware that biometric data are being collected and used, and whether they understand what these data can reveal.
With regard to legal matters, the study examines whether action in general is necessary; it presents information on how these systems are currently regulated by law and assesses whether the sensitive nature of such data call for special regulatory measures. Lastly, the study aims to make a general assessment that serves as the basis for drawing conclusions, ideally laying the groundwork for formulating concrete recommendations on dealing with this issue. These recommendations are directed towards decision makers, in particular politicians.