Facial Recognition, Are You Opting In?


If you’re an Iphone X user or a Samsung Galaxy 8/ S8+ or S9 user, you’re likely to have at least one foot planted firmly in the camp of acceptance of facial recognition.  Thanks to devices like these, many of us are already using this technology in our day to day, if we listen to recent studies, we could be using it up to 150 times in one day, (every time we check our phone), staggering, I know.  Plus, facial recognition is used by thousands everyday flying with EU chipped passports which have been in use since 2006. With Apple claiming Facial Recognition to be over 20x more secure than fingerprint ID, one can see the draws of this ‘tool’ and the reason for it’s introduction to multiple areas of industry, but we all know, as with any innovative technology, it has it’s drawbacks and it’s doubters asking ‘where will it be used?’, ‘should consent need to be given?’ and the answer to these questions, I believe, is all in the way that it’s used!  

Facial Recognition Software

A Little Background…

It could be argued that facial recognition technologies were born as long ago as the 1960’s, despite this being a very current and still developing phenomenon.  Although the application was manual, Woodrow Wilson Bledsoe was the first to develop facial markers which could detect which photo was most like the original one that had been mapped. Developments were then made continuously throughout the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and noughties, refining detail and accuracy, with significant breakthroughs is 1991 when Turk and Pentland managed to prove the feasibility of automatic facial recognition.

There have since been many successful and failing uses of the technology at various stages of development, including police and government departments, sporting events and now, as we all know, social media.  

We’ll come across two variations of facial recognition, 2D and 3D.  The fundamentals of face recognition are that it measures the distance between features – lips, nose, eyebrows. While 2D works primarily on this basis alone, 3D, which can also be used in sub -optimal lighting,  is able to use depth as an additional factor to determine similarities and differences, giving more precise results.


  • Around The Globe

In India, facial recognition was recently used to find 3,000 missing children in the space of 4 days, with the aim of reuniting all with their parents or families – a tremendous accomplishment for Indian authorities. The creation of this TrackChild database was an experiment but the hope is that the use of this technology can be rolled out to help the 200,000 missing children in the country, many of which are likely lodged in various care institutions.  No matter your opinion on facial recognition, there are some success stories which will challenge any pessimism or uncertainty.

TrackChild Database


  • To Infinity and beyond…

NASA themselves have been using face recognition technology, ‘what for?’ you ask, no, it’s not for the use of identifying their Astronauts, but instead, for identifying their blue nuggets!  

Blue nuggets are a specific and early phase of a galaxy formation, one which Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs), which are used in facial recognition, have been used to identify, with an 80% success rate.  


  • Dating

It’s said that we are attracted to those who have similar features to our own. On this premise, dating apps are using the technology to find ‘soulmates’.  With the use of facial recognition, apps can pair couples with similar facial features, it can also allow singletons to find suitors that look like their favourite Celebrity crushes, something which dating app, Badoo, have already introduced! 


  • Crime

Putting the technology to a truly positive cause, this is possibly the one area in which facial recognition has been discussed most in recent years.  Primarily this comes down to identifying criminals in a crowd, Police utilized this in the UK for the 2017 UEFA Championship in Belfast, capturing faces from crowds around the stadium and in the town centre and, using software, comparing them to a wanted list.  More recently, Chinese authorities were able to identify one wanted individual in the crowd of 10’s of thousands at a music concert; the accuracy and precision of the technology is clearly developing.



Identify Criminals in Crowd by Facial Recognition Software


  • Facebook & Facial Recognition

Facebook’s use of facial recognition is less personal, it uses the images of a user already tagged as a template from which it can analyse other images and make tagging suggestions.  You may have experienced one of their new features, ‘may include you’ where you are notified if an image appears which may include, according to their facial recognition, an image of you.  You may also be alerted if an image you are tagged in is used as someone’s profile picture, making it much easier for you to keep track of and be aware of images containing your face, even if you’re not tagged in them.  Of course all of these ‘options’ you can opt out of and this should be made very clear, especially due to the impending GDPR!


In reality, we’ve already accepted this technology, perhaps not quite in our day to day for everyone; however the technology and the discussion around it is more prevalent now than it has ever been and constant advancements mean that it’s real time uses are quickly becoming a norm.