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Survey: More than half of U.S. adults wary about facial recognition tech in healthcare

Most people are concerned about the use of facial recognition technology in healthcare, a new survey has found. Photo by Tumisu/Pixabay
Most people are concerned about the use of facial recognition technology in healthcare, a new survey has found. Photo by Tumisu/Pixabay

Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Many adults in the United States are concerned about the use of facial recognition technology in hospitals, medical practices and other healthcare settings, a survey published Thursday by PLOS ONE found.

Nearly 60% of respondents also indicate that they are equally worried about the privacy of medical records, DNA data and facial images collected for precision health research, the data showed.

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In addition, up to 25% consider the use of facial image data in healthcare across eight possible scenarios "unacceptable," the researchers said.

A similar percentage suggest they are "unsure" as to whether its use is acceptable.

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Meanwhile, more than half the respondents do not accept, or say they are unsure, about healthcare providers using personal data to monitor patients' emotions and symptoms or doing so for health research.

Conversely, using facial image data to avoid medical errors, for diagnosis and screening or for security is acceptable to the majority of respondents, the data showed.

"Our results show that a large segment of the public perceives a potential privacy threat when it comes to using facial image data in healthcare," study co-author Sara Katsanis said in a press release.

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"To ensure public trust, we need to consider greater protections for personal information in healthcare settings, whether it relates to medical records, DNA data or facial images," said Katsanis, head of the Genetics and Justice Laboratory at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.

The use of facial image data in healthcare has increased in recent years, both as a means of additional security and as a fail-safe against medical errors, according to industry journal HealthTech Magazine.

However, as with all such technologies, there are privacy concerns, Katsanis and her colleagues said.

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For this study, the researcher team, which includes people with expertise in bioethics, law, genomics, facial analytics and bioinformatics, surveyed more than 4,000 adults from across the United States.

While respondents were a diverse group in terms of age, geographic region, gender, racial and ethnic background, educational attainment, household income, and political views, their opinions on these issues did not differ by demographics, the researchers said.

"As facial recognition technologies become more common, we need to be prepared to explain how patient and participant data will be kept confidential and secure," Katsanis said.

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