Why I am a fan of facial recognition when it makes the customer experience easier

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Where do we see facial recognition nowadays? We encounter it when crossing international borders, boarding some airplanes and when we unlock our iPhone X or later versions.

So facial recognition is becoming more and more common. I love, love, love that my iPhone and apps unlock just by me looking at my phone. And I thought the fingerprint unlock on previous iPhones was innovative when it first came out.


The unlock screen on iPhones with verification confirmed via facial recognition:


There are plus and minuses to facial recognition of course:

    Privacy issues – real and perceived – may be the biggest negative
    Convenience – could be the biggest positive for customers

Let’s look at each…

Privacy and facial recognition

I get it. We want privacy. And I do, too. But for business storytellers like me, journalists and other communicators we aren’t truly private people. You can usually see me tweeting about all kinds of things.

We are out there. We make statement on TV, appear on podcasts and more.

For more private people I can see the privacy argument to an extend.

The first time I boarded a flight – American Airlines Dallas to London – via facial recognition, U.S. Border and Customs had posted this sign saying that pictures of Americans would be deleted after 12 hours.

Some foreigner pictures would be used to verify they left before a Visa expired – which could be 90 days later.

Here’s the setup at the gate: You walk up, place your face in the circle on the screen and the screen changes to: Christoph Trappe, 6A, with a green check mark. So they had a picture of me already to check it against.

Of course, that really shouldn’t be a surprise to any of us. The government takes our pictures routinely for driver’s licenses, global entry and passports – for example. That’s also true for people who want privacy. To get true privacy don’t get a driver’s license or passport, I guess.

Read next: Why I had two US passports before and how that’s legal



The convenience of facial recognition

There is a convenience factor. With facial recognition, I can presumably board a plane quicker and don’t have to print my boarding pass or even download it. No idea how I would know that my flight offers this. The Dallas to London didn’t mention it anywhere until I got to the gate.

Using facial recognition to unlock our houses. Is that a thing yet?

I don’t really ever use my house key, as I typically enter the house by driving my car into the garage which I can open from my car.

My kids use the garage keypad:

Facial recognition door locks do already exist, according to Amazon:

The convenience can be real. When it works. It’s like automatic bathroom amenities. The automatic paper dispenser is awesome when it works. It’s terrible when you have to wave in weird positions.

Of course where facial recognition will be most useful for the end user is to be determined. The iPhone and boarding a plane is a good start.