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Responsible Limits on Facial Recognition Technology

How can we create actionable guidelines to address human rights concerns arising from the use of facial recognition technology? 

The challenge 

The adoption of facial recognition has increased dramatically over the past few years, fuelled by the rapid improvement in this technology. While accuracy scores now exceed 95%, serious concerns remain about its potential use for mass surveillance and susceptibility to unfair bias. Public and private organizations worldwide are grappling with this challenge and exploring various policy responses. To help these organizations tackle this challenge, the World Economic Forum has worked with industry actors, policy-makers, civil society representatives and academics to develop a governance framework to ensure safe and trustworthy use of facial recognition technology. 


The opportunity 

This project convenes various stakeholders from all sectors of society to co-design a framework structured around four steps:  

  1. Define what constitutes the responsible use of facial recognition through drafting a set of principles for action  

  2. Design best practices to support product teams in the development of systems “responsible by design”  

  3. Assess to what extent the system designed is responsible through an assessment questionnaire that describes for each use-case what rules should be respected to comply with the principles for action. 

  4. Validate compliance with the principle for action through the design of an audit framework by a trusted third party  

This framework is then applied to various use-cases (e.g. face access, safety and security of public spaces, marketing and customer services, healthcare services) across jurisdictions. 


Co-designing an actionable governance framework in 12 months to ensure the trustworthy and safe use of the technology through a multistakeholder approach and agile governance principles. Our method enables governments to protect citizens from various harm potentially caused by facial recognition technology while supporting beneficial applications. Industry actors that comply with our governance framework would demonstrate that they have implemented processes to ensure the responsible use of facial recognition technology.   

2020 key dates 

March – June: Pilot phase to test the policy framework on the use-case “Flow Management” co-drafted by organizations including AWS, Microsoft, Paris Airport, SNCF, Idemia and Afnor Certification since June 2019  

September: Global workshop in San Francisco on the responsible limits on facial recognition 

How to engage 

Project community: Nominate experts, policy-makers or senior executives who can help guide Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution projects by providing regular input as projects develop.  

Fellow: Nominate an individual from your organization to work full- or part-time at one of the Centres to play an integral role in shaping this initiative.  


For more information, contact Kay Firth-Butterfield, Head of AI and Machine Learning, at or 

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