No Way to Hide Your Face from Facebook

No Way to Hide Your Face from Facebook

Facebook now has better than a 97 percent chance to recognize you by simply looking at your face, which is roughly comparable to human facial-recognition skills.  (Everyone reading this who is “bad with faces” might be surprised to learn we can, on average, identify faces 97.5 percent of the time.)

The UK Independent explains just how sophisticated this software, which has the appropriately creepy/fascinating name “Deep Face,” has become: it doesn’t really matter how well lit the room is, what expression you’re trying to fool the system with, or even if you’re facing the camera.  The numeric relationship between significant facial features produces an incredibly accurate 3D map.

If this seems a tad disturbing to you – especially if you’re reading this on a laptop that includes a built-in camera, which you’re not really sure how to turn off – you’re in good company with the Europeans:

Facebook says that it used a pool of 4.4 million labelled faces from 4,030 different people on its network to load the system. The software is not currently being introduced to Facebook itself, but is simply being presented to garner feedback from other researchers.

The social network first introduced its facial recognition software back in 2010 to American users before bringing it worldwide in 2011. In 2012 the EU forced Facebook to drop the functionality in Europe and delete all the facial templates it had collected from users. Facial recognition remains unavailable for users in the UK.

The possibilities raised by this technology remind me of the scene from “Minority Report” where a fugitive Tom Cruise tries to flee through a shopping mall filled with computers that instantly recognize him and bombard him with customized advertising.  But of course, everyone’s going to be even more perturbed by the possibility of Big Government incorporating this technology into the ever-evolving surveillance state.  As with other facets of the All-Seeing Eye, it’s easy to envision highly desirable uses for super-accurate facial recognition, such as locating dangerous fugitives or missing children.  It’s also easy to get righteously creeped out.

Back in December, there were stories about the government’s ability to surreptitiously activate webcams without alerting the user.  There have long been fears about hackers doing the same.  Adding super-accurate facial recognition to the mix could add to the growing sense of paranoia surrounding computers.  You’re probably carrying an Internet-accessible camera around in your pocket all day, thanks to smartphone technology…


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