The poor public image of artificial intelligence is a security risk in Europe.

Artificial intelligence, as happened with any complex and misunderstood technology throughout history, provokes fear and mistrust. As was the case with the printing press, the steam engine and electricity, it took a couple of generations to overcome these fears and adopt these technologies on a massive scale.

In the case of artificial intelligence applied to security, we cannot afford to wait that long. Terrorism, organized crime and even small-scale crime are going to use it without any consideration. Scams, identity theft, document forgery, attacks on people’s honor by spreading false images of them, happen every day. The citizen has assumed that it is a real danger, and that artificial intelligence has become part of the cybercriminals’ arsenal.

But, inexplicably, there is a great reluctance for such technologies to be used by law enforcement.

Recently a popular Spanish digital media published an article with the title “We have lost the battle against facial recognition. Europe approves its large-scale police use”. Would any journalist write a similar headline, regarding firearms? “We have lost the battle, police will be allowed to use firearms”.

Of course not, it is taken for granted that law enforcement has to have advanced means and tools, which are not available to the ordinary citizen. Just as an automatic weapon should not be available to the public, and the law so provides, the use of certain advanced technology should also be regulated and controlled, not because the technology in itself is inherently harmful, just as a kitchen knife is not harmful in itself, but because a very powerful technology can be used, like the knife, for criminal purposes.

Limiting law enforcement’s access to such technologies puts them at a disadvantage against organized crime and terrorism, which do use them. Recently, a sophisticated identity theft attack has been in the news around the world, in which criminals have managed to defraud a company $25 million.

Currently, one of EITHOS’s objectives is the creation of an offline Deepfake detection system, which will act on manipulated videos. The knowledge acquired during the development of this project can be applied in the future to other use cases, for example, the detection of identity forgery in real time, included by default in videoconference software, and avoid cases like the one in this news, alert about manipulated passport photographs, etc…

Returning to the news item at the beginning of this article, about the alleged loss of freedom implied by the police use of facial recognition systems, it is worth considering the alternative, i.e., not using this technology. This alternative implies, for example, that terrorists and internationally wanted criminals can walk calmly inside a train station, which is currently completely covered by surveillance cameras recording 24 hours a day. When a terrorist attack occurs, these recordings are reviewed after the fact and, in a shockingly high percentage, they show known terrorists, moments before the attack. A facial recognition system could alert to their presence in a matter of seconds.

For the first time in history, we have the technology to stay ahead of the criminal. Will we pass up the opportunity?

Author: Manuel Pastor, CTO at Herta Security

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