A computer screen displays the rating of visitor's smiles as determined by face-recognition software developed by Omron Corp. at the CEATEC technology trade show in Chiba, Japan October 2, 2007. Picture taken October 2.  REUTERS/Michael Caronna (JAPAN) - RTR1UIPK

Facebook’s Facial-Recognition Tech Is Now Better Than the FBI’s. Here’s Why That’s Scary

The giant social network just announced it can recognize your face with 97 percent accuracy

Facebook and the FBI are engaged in an arms race to create technology capable of recognizing someone just by looking at a picture of their face.

Facebook is winning that battle, which provides a new incentive for the government to use the social network’s data for surveillance-related purposes.

This week, Facebook announced DeepFace, a new piece of facial-recognition technology developed by an in-house team of developers and researchers. One striking part of the announcement was the claim that the software was now up to 97.25 percent accurate. Using “networks of a simulated neurons to spot patterns in data,” Facebook just became the best facial-identifier in the world.

Which is interesting, really, because the FBI—through its Next Generation Identification (NGI) program—has spent $1.2 billion of its own on facial-recognition technology. But their facial-technology program only works about 80 percent of the time.

“It does imply that Facebook’s facial-recognition technology may be farther along than the FBI’s,” says Jeramie Scott, who serves on the national security counsel at the D.C.-based Electronic Privacy Information Centers, or EPIC, a group that’s known for pushing for privacy rights.

To be sure, Facebook and the FBI claim to have very different purposes for the facial-recognition technology. Facebook wants to get better at tagging people in photos, data that be sold to advertisers. (If someone uploads a picture of you hanging out in a Gap store, for instance, that’s valuable information to a clothing retailer.)

The FBI, on the other hand, plans to roll out its facial-recognition technology this summer to local law enforcement agencies around the country. It claims the software will help identify suspects in crimes. For instance, if surveillance video captures the face of a man robbing a bank, the NGI program will theoretically be able to comb through mugshots and Department of Motor Vehicles records to match the face and find the suspect.

The FBI has explicitly pointed out that it will only be drawing photos from national repositories—i.e. government sources. “Query photos and photos obtained from social networking sites, surveillance cameras, and similar sources are not used to populate the national repository,” the FBI recently noted.


But the fear, of course, is that the FBI will find ways of tapping into Facebook’s data—especially now that Facebook has become so proficient at identifying people based on their faces. “There’s always the potential that the government will leverage the data that’s collected by the private sector,” Scott adds.

Facial recognition is difficult to get right, especially using grainy photos captured by surveillance cameras. But more and more businesses are spending resources to develop better facial-recognition systems. Lockheed Martin, for instance, recently announced it was spending more to become “a leader in biometric solutions.” It’s also worth noting that the government has yet to regulate private and commercial facial recognition endeavors.

Regardless, the implication is clear: We’re moving toward a post-anonymity future. Whether its Facebook or the FBI, facial-recognition technology makes its possible for both the private and public sectors to track your movements—whether it’s for profit or surveillance.

Respond Now
  • Facebook(or as i call it by it’s real name and purpose, F.U.Book) is and always was a front for a CIA/MI6 database to catolog people to find out ALL ABOUT you, so they can use it against you one day in the FEMA Camps. Mark Zucherberg stated that “everyone who uses Facebook is a dumb F***” Someone claims they heard him say this! They will not reveal their name, as they do not want to get on his bad side. I wouldn’t want to get on a billionaire’s bad side either, especially one that is in bed with the CIA, DHS, NSA. But in closing that is what Facebook is. It’s a government, communist, CIA, database to be used to control and infiltrate every aspect of a person’s life. My niece who lives far away wanted to keep in touch with me a few years back; so  reluctantly signed up altering my name. But i quickly deleted my account. Yeah right! All they know about me is that I like the band U2, and I found the Denver Airport Creepy. I don’t care who knows that. As far as my face? They have that at the DMV.


Remember Chunk from "The Goonies"? He's a Lawyer

Molly Fitzpatrick

Model Sets Off Firestorm With Gun Tweet, But Data Proves She's Right

M.L. Nestel

VOTR App: "Tinder for Politics"

Rebecca Steinberg

VIDEO: Interview With a Captured ISIS Fighter

Lindsey Snell

al Qaeda's Next Target: American Oil Tankers

Sarah Kaufman

Sorry I Ran You Over. Now Please Pay Me $2,000

M.L. Nestel

Man Steals Car to Save Mom From Zombie Apocalypse: Cops

Shane Dixon Kavanaugh

Man Scams Millions of Dollars Pretending to Be in a Wheelchair

Sarah Kaufman
Join the Fray
“Rollin’ Coal” Is Pollution Porn for Dudes With Pickup Trucks