face, law enforcement, social media

Google and Facebook have better Face Rec than the Police

Revelations In Online Facial Recognition (Police Oracle)

Ground-breaking biometric research has shown that the freely available facial recognition search engines used by social networking sites such as Facebook and Picasa are as accurate as some specialist biometric systems sold to government agencies, such as police forces.

First, the above linked article is extremely interesting and I suggest you read the whole thing. I just don’t share the author’s surprise at the research results.

Here’s why:

Facebook and Google (Picasa) have way more money than police departments and they can use facial recognition to make more money still.

Facebook and Google grasped the return on investment facial recognition offers them much earlier than Police departments. That isn’t surprising either.

Unlike police, Facebook and Google face almost no labor cost in collecting facial recognition information. Their users do all the work for them leaving the companies to concentrate on processing the information. Police labor is expensive.

Also unlike police, Facebook and Google can (and do) change their terms of service to accommodate what they want to do. Police don’t get to write, much less change, their terms of service (the law) regarding how and what information they collect and how it can be used.

Facebook and Google face technology isn’t free. In fact, having acquired face.com, Facebook has sent notice to face.com customers that in the near future they will have to look elsewhere for facial recognition help.

Google and Facebook are for profit tech companies. Police departments aren’t.

I suspect that Facebook (maybe Google, too) is applying much stronger data tools in its facial recognition efforts — tools that police can’t use. To understand why it is important to realize that a simple facial recognition search of all the photos on the Facebook or Google servers would be pretty close to useless. The ‘book simply has far too many faces. Based upon the image quality and the high number of photos, there would be far too many false positives resulting from a “brute force” matching effort. I’ll make an educated guess that the reason Facebook gets the facial recognition results that it does is that it uses its (highly proprietary) knowledge of its users to limit the face rec search only to people that Facebook already believes have a significant likelihood of actually knowing each other. If my assumptions hold, police would have to have a Facebook-like awareness of the population in order to achieve Facebook-like facial recognition results.

Given the above, it would be astounding/shocking/alarming (substitute your own descriptor) if Google and Facebook weren’t better at facial recognition than are police departments.

Previous ArticleNext Article