CEO of InReality Ron Levac

An interview with Ron Levac, CEO of InReality

As part of the DSF Back-to-Business series, we heard some of our members talking about “The Blacklist” and how some of the temperature inspection devices are utilizing facial recognition software on the list–unknowingly. We wanted to know more, so we tapped CEO of InReality Ron Levac to learn more.

Thanks for sitting down for a minute with us Ron. When we first heard about this topic, we were both surprised and intrigued. What is the Blacklist?

Basically, Washington went after a bunch of Chinese facial recognition companies over National Security issues. They put them on a “Blacklist” May 22nd, and very clearly asked U.S. vendors to not buy from them.

Why should this matter to our members getting into this “Back to Business” space?

For the same reason that it matters to us at InReality—because if you’re not careful, you could be using software on this list and not even realize it.

How is that?

Let me use our story as an example. Back in March, we found ourselves in the same space as a lot of people in our industry—trying to figure out how to best respond to the pandemic situation. Our firm’s heritage is venue analytics, and we felt we were in a good position to provide our platform as a method to enterprise-enable sensors being used for different “Safe Space” screening and management needs. One of the sensors we got behind does instant temperature inspections and, like many of them, had an option for facial recognition. We have a Hong Kong office and knew the manufacturer well, so we did our research, connected with them directly and started asking a lot of questions about the software that they use for facial recognition. Like most of them, they were tight lipped about the nitty gritty. But when we got into the SDK to make improvements for the user experience of the device, we realized that we were going to need to find our own US-based resource for this feature. Which we did.

Okay, so say I’m an end user and have purchased a sensor that offers facial recognition. Or—and I’ll ‘yikes’ when I ask this—I’m an integrator and don’t know if I’ve fallen into this trap. What do I do?

Dig deeper. Anyone out there could have been buying blacklisted product and not know it. Push your manufacturer, push your source and get the details.

What if I can’t get a clear answer?

There’s a few tricks. When our platform is powering a sensor that uses facial recognition, when you create an account and accept the Terms and Conditions, you see our US recognition software partner’s name clearly within the terms. This is a place to start.

What are the implications if someone fell into this unwittingly? As in, why should they care?

Whether you enable the facial recognition or not, these products are detecting your face. The liability comes from “Trump says you can’t buy”, so if you buy it, you’re breaking the mandate.

If you are using another 3rd party product and deploying it into your building, you may be liable if you can’t prove that it’s NOT on the blacklist. “Ignorance doesn’t absolve you”, as they say.

Will the government enforce this?

Who’s to know. The way we look at it, we’re not going to be the ones to find out the hard way.