Hands-Up For Facial Recognition With Facebook, TV Shows & FBI

If you're a TV junkie like myself who gravitates towards fast-paced high-stakes thrillers in this new Golden Age of television, you most likely have also been schooled on the new lexicon of terms used to solve cases. Ever since the award-winning FX series Damages first premiered in 2007 with intricate plot twists, red herrings, foreshadowing and nonlinear narratives, shows like Rubicon, Breaking Bad, Scandal, Homeland and The Americans have taken this genre to new heights and widespread acclaim.

TV Watchers know as much as the Cops. . .

Now it's second nature to second guess when a warrant, Miranda Rights and/or DNA testing is required to move the plot along. When a cop enters a house without just cause or armed back-up, a red-flag automatically goes off in our heads as we know there will be repercussions. Like the horror movies of the past, when we couldn't help ourselves from shouting out loud: "Don't go into that basement," we are today just as prepped with the do's and don'ts of solving criminal and political cases.

Smile, you're on Candid Camera. . .

Today, with the advancement of technology, we now live in a world of CCTVs where we've moved one step closer to Orwell's dystopian society of Big Brother. TV shows like Person of Interest hinge their entire plotline on this type of surveillance. Using these security cameras in tandem with facial recognition software now allows for the dramas like The Following and The Blacklist to identify criminals captured in the urban-wild, at airports, in subway tunnels - where-ever nefarious deeds are in progress.

Friends of Sam. . .

However while this new technology is law enforcement's latest holy grail, it's also the sought-after software by our number-one ubiquitous social network - namely, Facebook. Yes, we're talking about the same social media platform that over the years has slowly brainwashed us into believing that privacy is an outdated paradigm which needed to be replaced by an open social graph. Like the popular TV series Cheers, Facebook has transitioned into a very comfortable watering hole, where everyone knows our name - and now with the help of new software - can actually attach a face to the name.

More Photos than you can shake a Smart Phone at. . .

According to Huffington Post report, Facebook owns the world's largest photo library. In 2010, Facebook assumed bragging rights for maintaining 140 billion photos on their site.

To put this in perspective FB's library is 10,000 times larger than the photo catalog in the Library of Congress, and Flickr and Instagram also pale in comparison.

Enter DeepFace

Facebook announced last week that it has developed software called "DeepFace," which researchers attest can determine whether two photographed faces are of the same person with 97.25 percent accuracy. In the same report, FB noted that humans put to the same test answer correctly 97.53 percent of the time -- only a quarter of a percent better.

This precision is achieved by mapping 3D facial features and then creating a colorless model to narrow in on specific characterizations. To develop the technology, Facebook reviewed 4.4 million tagged faces from 4,030 of its users to help the system learn how to better identify features specific to each person. The report also reveals that Facebook looks at modern face recognition in four phases: detect, align, represent and classify.

Face It. . .

Bottom line, up till now, Facebook has only been recommending who we tag in new photos based on history - that is, who we've tagged in the past. With DeepFace, it's a whole new ball game. Now, it's similar to a human looking at a face and recognizing it.

Why is this somewhat creepy and intrusive? Well, in addition to the Big Brother factor, Facebook has perfected technology that exceeds that of the FBI. While the government has spent over $1.2 billion on its "Next Generation Identification" (NGI) software, according to a PopSci report, their facial-technology program only works 80 percent of the time.

It's a somewhat sad commentary that a social network whose original raison d'être was to bring people together socially is going to become better at fingering us than the cops. You might think about that the next time you are hankering for a cold one at that place where everyone knows your face!


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