The struggle for recognition in the age of facial recognition technology

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Facial recognition is a promising emerging technology, but it sometimes fails to recognize people adequately. Facial recognition applications have been found to regularly misidentify certain demographics, misinterpret traits like gender, age, beliefs, or emotions, and categorize individuals in ways that do not resonate with their own sense of identity. In this paper I argue that in each of these cases, the person who has their face analyzed is not merely misidentified or misunderstood, but misrecognized in an ethically relevant sense. Following the work of Charles Taylor (1992) and Axel Honneth (1996) on the topic of recognition, I describe how those subjected to facial recognition systems on the one hand struggle to obtain adequate recognition on a universal level, as being equally important to others, and lack recognition for their individual uniqueness, on the other hand. These forms of misrecognition are of ethical concern, because they can harm a person’s identity formation. So, ironically, facial recognition technology can give rise to a struggle for recognition.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
JournalAI and Ethics
Early online date8 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • AI ethics
  • Misrecognition
  • Facial recognition
  • The struggle for recognition
  • UT-Hybrid-D


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