Facebook Develops Technology To Recognize You Even When Your Face Is Covered

If you regularly shield your face in photos for fear someone might recognize you on Facebook, then you might need to find another way to stay incognito when it comes to the social media site.

That’s because Facebook says it has developed an algorithm that can recognize people in photographs even when their faces are obscured, The New Scientist reports.

The technology was developed in Facebook’s artificial intelligence lab and presented in a paper [PDF] at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference earlier this month.

“In the absence of a clear, high-resolution frontal face, we rely on a variety of subtle cues from other body parts, such as hair style, clothes, glasses, pose and other context,” the paper states. “We can easily picture Charlie Chaplin’s mustache, hat and cane or Oprah Winfrey’s curly volume” hairstyle.

However, the researchers contend that technology capable of accurately identifying individuals based on these characteristics in non-frontal photographs wasn’t previously available… until now.

The new algorithm – called PIPER (Pose Invariant Person Recognition) – uses characteristics such as hairstyles, clothing, body shape, poses and partial facial views to identify an individual.

Researchers tested the method on a data set of almost 40,000 photos collected from public Flickr albums.

In all, they say the system achieved 83% accuracy over 581 identities in the test set. When frontal face photos were put through the experiment accuracy increased to 93.4%.

The existence of more powerful – and accurate – facial recognition software has become a topic of concern for companies and consumer groups in recent months.

Advocates are concerned because facial recognition is not the wave of the future, but of the present. Facebook currently offers tagging suggestions for photos.

To address concerns of the fairly new and unregulated technology, the Commerce Department recently brought together privacy advocates and industry representatives to hammer out a new code of conduct.

However, those discussions didn’t go so well, with several advocates claiming the process was broken and couldn’t be fixed, leading them to essentially abandon the talks.

Facebook can recognise you in photos even if you’re not looking [New Scientist]

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