Just Another Pretty Face

Facial recognition software has been under development for decades.  Both private and professional engineers have been working to fine tune the process of mapping the human face.  Human beings rely on the fusiform face area of the brain to identify and remember people they have seen.  Remembering the human face, has been…well, a largely human function.   Recent developments have brought some amazing, if not disquieting insights as to how advanced the technology has become and how it is being used.

Apple recently unveiled their new line of phones, including the iPhone X.  This device has been equipped with FaceID, a system that uses the A11 Bionic chip.  This system uses a combination of components which bring recognition software to a new level.  Crammed into a tiny space at the top of the screen, consumers will find the TrueDepth camera system:

Flood Illuminator, Infrared Camera, Proximity Sensor, Front Camera, Ambient Light Sensor, Dot Projector, Speaker and Microphone.  These elements combine to create a mathematical map of your face. Darkness, makeup, hats, facial hair or glasses; are reported as being no problem for FaceID.

While iPhones are not the first company to use facial recognition (Samsung), they clearly have developed the most advanced available on the current market.  Previous versions used by phones were primarily 2D maps, which were fooled by pictures or videos.  Since the human face is not static, it presents certain challenges commonly referred to as “A-PIE” which stands for, Age, Position, Illumination and Emotions.  Previous version of recognition software used nodes and measurements to create a face print.  FaceID uses an infrared image and 30k invisible dots for complete 3D facial recognition.  Apple executive Phil Schiller stated “This is the future of how we’ll unlock our smartphones and protect our sensitive information.”

This leads us to wonder about the security of these pictures and where they go.  Apple has stated the data will be stored locally on a user’s phone, not in a central database.  However, Apple has been challenged in the past, regarding data stored on their phones.  The FBI took Apple to court, following the mass shooting in San Bernardino in December of 2015.  One of the shooters, who was subsequently killed, had an iPhone which the FBI investigators wanted unlocked.  The issue was tossed around in court, but the suit was eventually dropped, only because the phone was opened by hackers paid for by the FBI.

A person might think skipping out on the $1000 price tag for this new phone, will keep their face safe from identification.  A YouTube video produced by BritLabs, reports Facebook utilizes facial recognition software with an impressive 97.35% accuracy rate.  Beginning in early 2015, Facebook and Walmart announced a collaboration to write “rules” for facial recognition software.  Other corporate giants like Google and Amazon, also use it habitually.  Sites such as Google Face or ILookLikeYou.com., allow users to upload photos and find friends and family; as well as finding your global doppelganger.

Anonymity is becoming more elusive.  Venues such as the Super Bowl, concert halls, casinos and other businesses; scan the area with surveillance cameras for security.  Additionally, scanning crowds at rallies, protests or marches, has become the acceptable standard.  Surveillance has become synonymous with security.   Jumping even further into high-tech, is surface texture analysis.  A system so advanced, it can tell the difference between identical twins.  The company FaceItArgus, uses skin biometrics which can be paired with facial recognition software to increase identification accuracy.

Devices to thwart facial recognition are of course being developed and you can purchase privacy visor glasses that obliterate cameras with a reflective shell.  A pair of these special glasses will set you back $150.  A mask is less expensive, but not always practical; so you may choose to use a hooded sweatshirt, sunglasses or a hat. I wonder where we’ve seen that before?

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