WEF Toolkit and Certification Framework for Responsible Use of Facial Recognition


Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for seamless and contactless facial-recognition technology to accurately identify customers has never been so critical. To combat challenges such as various governance issues, the World Economic Forum has released Responsible Limits on Facial Recognition, Use Case: Flow Management, an actionable framework to ensure the responsible use of such technology.

Facial recognition technology (FRT) creates many socially beneficial uses, mostly through enhanced authentication and identification processes, such as unlocking a smartphone, boarding a plane and accessing online public services. But it has also come under increasing scrutiny for potentially undermining privacy, misidentifying people, perpetuating systemic racism and contributing to surveillance infrastructure.

So far, the response from policy-makers has predominantly focused on banning the use of FRT to prevent any harm.

“During the global Covid-19 pandemic, an unprecedented number of industry actors are considering deploying facial recognition to improve their flow management processes. Yet this comes with various risks for customers and citizens alike,” said Kay Firth-Butterfield, Head of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, World Economic Forum. “This is the first global multistakeholder effort to mitigate these risks effectively.”

The Forum has focused on FRT for passengers boarding aircraft, working with key industry players in the field. The framework is composed of actionable rules to help transport companies implement the technology responsibly. The toolkit guides organizations through a list of 10 Principles for Action. The audit framework, run by third-party certification organizations, can build a new level of transparency and trust among end-users and stakeholders.

Tokyo-Narita Airport tested this assessment questionnaire, which is part of the toolkit. “Narita International Airport is delighted to be the first airport to test the self-assessment questionnaire and achieve an additional level of trust from local and global passengers through this initiative,” said Hideharu Miyamoto, Senior Executive Officer, Narita International Airport, Japan. “We encourage other airports to adopt this framework as part of our collective effort to build transparency with passengers about our use of FRT.”

The framework has been co-designed with key players from the transportation industry, such as Tokyo-Narita Airport, Paris Airport (Groupe ADP) and SNCF (France’s national state-owned railway company), and leading tech companies such as NEC and IDEMIA, as well as policy-makers from Japan, France and the European Union.

“Co-designing the first audit management system for FRT has been both incredibly challenging and rewarding when we consider the stakes for the transportation industry,” said Julien Nizri, Managing Director, AFNOR Certification. “We’re confident in our ability to restore passengers’ trust in air and train travel through our third-party certification and invite industry actors interested in being certified to contact us.”

“As a world-leading technology company, we strive for continuously providing secure and reliable technology solutions to our customers, especially when it comes to sensitive technologies such as facial recognition,” said Toshifumi Yoshizaki, Senior Vice‑President, NEC Corporation. “In this spirit, we have joined this initiative to contribute to the establishment of a global quality standard for the responsible use of FRT.”

The first part of the framework was published by the World Economic Forum earlier this year.


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