How Does Facial Recognition Work

Ever thought why everyone is after your facial data? From airport customs to smartphones, each entity is amassing your facial details. Thanks to facial recognition technology, also known as FRT, facial data is most sought after today.
It’s no secret that over the years, facial recognition has gone from being an ingenious form of highly advanced security systems in movies to existing all around us and landing in our hands today.

What is Facial Recognition?

By definition, facial recognition is a biometric software application which is advanced enough of uniquely identifying or verifying a person by comparing and analyzing patterns based on the person’s facial contours.
To simplify, humans have a unique facial pattern. The facial recognition software is capable of analyzing your facial features and storing them in a massive database. It then scans your face to match your information from the established database to identify who you are.
Numerous companies are jumping on the facial recognition bandwagon as the industry is expected to grow to $10.15 billion by 2025. Apple makes excellent use of facial recognition technology so much so that they have removed their staple fingerprint scanner altogether.
Tech giants are betting on facial recognition as the disruptive technology which simplifies day to day activities such as making payments for grocery, fuel, and others by merely scanning your face.
As with any tech product, some are pushing for the increased use of facial recognition technology while privacy and security advocates are raising into question the privacy and security concerns of this technology.


Facial Recognition’s Implementation

The technology has been implemented in several ways in our society. Some phones already use facial recognition to grant access, and some governments like China and the US are using facial recognition on databases like drivers’ licenses for a variety of reasons.
We’ve also got social media apps and built in facial recognition software that utilize facial detection like Snapchat and face id. Now, there’s a big difference between facial detection and facial recognition. With facial detection, a device would say, “yep, that’s my face,” and with facial recognition, the computer is saying, “yep, that’s your face!”
This ability to confirm identity is something our brains pick up on pretty quickly when we’re young. Still, it’s a pretty complex problem for computers. So, let’s dive deeper into facial recognition and the science of how it works.


How Does Facial Recognition Work?

The general functions of the technology are as follows:

  • Step 1: Face Detection

    When you think of a human face, you think of a pretty basic set of facial features. A face has eyes, a nose, and a mouth. But, there’s more to a face than just these features. Faces differ in a lot of factors like the width of the nose, the distance between the eyes, the shape and size of the mouth, and so on.

  • Step 2: Face Analysis

    Some facial recognition technologies look at up to 80 factors on the face to help identify unique features and, ultimately, identities. These features are pretty detailed, observing things like the depth of eye sockets, the height of cheekbones, and the shape of the jawline. Of course, with multiple complicated factors to be measured, some complications can arise.

  • Step 3: Ageing Issues

    For instance, the faces of those individuals who are aging. It’s no doubt that as we get older, we look different. To get around this, computers have learned what features tend to go relatively unchanged no matter how old we get, and they look closely at these features.
    But even if we didn’t age, there would still be everyday complications. Think about it, what happens if a computer tries to analyze your face and you’re not looking at its sensor or camera at precisely the same angle every time?
    This is something humans encounter daily, but never really have a problem with. For computers, though, this can present a seriously complicated obstacle in detecting and recognizing faces. So, engineers have found a few different techniques to work around these facial recognition systems.

  • Step 4: 2D to 3D

    A lot of phones that utilize facial recognition will prompt you to move your face around when you set up the facial recognition system to know what you look like from different angles.
    Other facial recognition systems utilize 2D to 3D technologies to map a 2D image of your face onto a 2D model to calculate what you would look like from different angles. Computers measure these factors down to scales smaller than a millimeter to generate a faceprint/image which, as the name applies, is a fingerprint but for your face.

Limitations of Facial Recognition Systems

As with any other technology, facial recognition systems too faces hurdles. Here are some of the limitations:

  • Abuse of Power
    Countries with little to no personal freedom can see governments or other entities abusing their power by using the technology as they see fit. This means agencies could potentially spy on their citizens and flag them for their messages, who you interact with, etc.
  • Wrongful Accusations
    Law enforcement agencies uses facial recognition systems to fight crime by tracking down criminals through CCTVs. This means they could keep a close watch on nearly everyone, any time of the day, and track them down anywhere.
  • Racial Discrimination
    Facial recognition software and technology could escalate the risk of racial bias. Recently, reports have surfaced, which highlights that facial recognition isn’t as effective at identifying people of color and women.

Privacy Concerns Regarding Facial Recognition

  • Data Privacy Concerns
    Data privacy has always been a concern, and facial recognition makes it worse. The data gathered by face recognition technology includes billions of images of faces and video files. It goes further to store the location where the data was collected.
  • Lack of Regulation
    Since facial recognition technology is a relatively new phenomenon, governments are yet to pass legislation. Currently, there are no regulations and limitations for face recognition use.

Over the time, faceprints and face ids have become incredibly accurate. They’re able to identify people with a near 100% accuracy and are even able to detect minor differences in identical twins.

As the technology has improved and become more widespread, the possibilities for its uses have grown as well. Today, we use facial recognition for things like phone security, but the technology is being vastly utilized by organizations such as banks and governments.

In countries like Japan, some banks are looking at implementing facial recognition technologies into their ATMs as a security measure for verifying transactions. In the US, government agencies like ICE and FBI are using facial recognition software to create databases from existing documents like drivers’ licenses.

Whatever the use, we know that this technology is becoming more and more present in our daily lives, and it doesn’t look like that will be stopping anytime soon.


How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

In these unfortunate times, you must start implementing measures that protect yourself from identity theft.

  • Limit your social presence
  • Do not upload personal images
  • Not using apps that use facial recognition

Know more about how to protect yourself from identity theft.