Machine learning accompanied by the vast amounts of photos and videos online contribute to a continuous improvement of the technology. Specialised hardware is not necessary as facial recognition software can be applied to images from most computers, smart phones and digital cameras.

Facial Recognition and Privacy


A Prevalent Technology

In 2017, Apple launched the iPhone X with Face ID. By 2024, facial recognition technology is projected to be included in 90 percent of all smartphones.
In Spain, CaxiaBank has installed ATMs where the PIN number is replaced by facial recognition.

China is investing heavily in financial technology and has adopted a leading position globally. Chinese consumers can already purchase items by showing their face to the camera at the check-out. In Norwegian capital Oslo, TINE SA – one of Norway’s largest food companies – and the country’s largest bank DNB are currently testing a similar payment solution.

Security and Surveillance

Both private and public actors use facial recognition for security and surveillance. These include firms responsible for security in large arenas and shopping malls, or police and security services.

An international survey shows that actors in 65 countries use facial recognition for surveillance. German train stations are testing facial recognition as a security measure and as a tool for providing support to the police. In January 2020, The Metropolitan Police Service in London announced the introduction of live facial recognition in various public places in the city.


  • Facial recognition is a reliable, cheap and effective tool for identification.
  • The technology has rapidly developed over the past years and is increasingly used in novel areas. Facial recognition can replace passwords, be used as a means for making payments, access control, and in matters of national security.
  • Facial recognition is scalable and enables mass surveillance from a distance, and without consent. Facial recognition is already extensively used in China and in many areas, it is now impossible to be anonymous
  • The GDPR regulates the use of facial recognition in Norway, but it is not prohibited. Swedish police recently got approval from the Swedish Data Protection Authority for using the technology.
  • Local authorities, technology developers and others are now calling for a moratorium


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