Artificial Intelligence

Facial Recognition Technology: A Blessing or a Curse?

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Ever wonder how your photo app can guess who's in your pictures from Saturday night? It's relying on faceprints, the unique feature that technology uses to recognize individuals. Faceprints are determined by nodal points such as the distance between your eyes and the width of your nose.

Why It's Unique To You

Every human being is unique. Science tells us this in the form of DNA and fingerprints and, among other things, faceprints. In much the same way that your fingerprint is identified by unique papillary ridges (the patterns made by the ridges of your skin), your faceprint is identified by nodal points, or, as described in Evidence Technology Magazine, "the different peaks and valleys that make up facial features." Every individual has about 80 nodal points, which include features like the distance between the eyes, the depth of the eye sockets, the width of the nose, the length of the jawline and the shape of the cheekbones.

Smart Graphic

Why You Should Care

You have faceprints to thank for plenty of cool technology — like how Facebook suggests who to tag in your photos— but they serve an even more important technological purpose: keeping people safe. Law enforcement agencies often employ facial recognition software (which relies largely on faceprints) to identify criminals and fugitives, and, in the future, could even be used to screen travelers at U.S. ports of entry in airports. But critics say that in some cases, the technology goes too far. Facebook, for example, claims that it's facial recognition software is 97.35% accurate, and some people are not so thrilled about that. In fact, as of 2016, the social media giant is facing a lawsuit regarding its use of faceprints. "Plaintiffs in the case are concerned on a number of fronts," explains Quartz. "Facebook could be selling identifying information to retailers or other third parties. More importantly, they worry that biometric data is just as susceptible to theft, hacking, and the long and invasive arm of law enforcement as other types of data."

Editors' Picks

How Does Facial Recognition Work?

And is it reliable?

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. Facebook can recognize faces with 97.35% accuracy, which is still less than a human's ability to recognize faces. 00:25

  2. There are four main issues you face when developing facial recognition software: aging, pose, illumination, emotions. 02:15

  3. Mastercard is trying to see if taking a selfie could be a viable way to authenticate a credit card purchase. 05:02

Your Brain's Facial Recognition Technology

You've got your own built-in software.

How Good Is Facebook's Facial Recognition

It claims to be more than 97% accurate. Buzzfeed put it to the test.

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