Facebook’s facial recognition technology has grown increasingly controversial in recent weeks. First, a judge ruled that Facebook must face a lawsuit alleging that the technology violates user privacy. Then, the feature was removed altogether from Facebook’s Moments app in Europe and Canada. Now NPR has reported that Facebook’s ability to recognize your face in photos is more accurate than the system used by the FBI.
According to Facebook, it is able to correctly identify a person’s face 98 percent of the time. According to the FBI, its technology correctly identifies the right person out of a list of its top 50 candidates about 85 percent of the time. The reasons for the difference: the photos available to the FBI are usually taken head-on, like a mug shot, and the system has to look through an enormous database to find a match. Meanwhile, Facebook is only looking at your friends’ faces to ID the right person.
“It’s much harder for face recognition to work when you’re trying to identify one person from a very large database versus one from a very small database, which is what Facebook is doing,” Jennifer Lynch, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told NPR.
Lynch also warned that the law as it currently stands does not prevent the FBI from using Facebook photos in its database.
“The FBI has said publicly that they do not put these photographs in the facial recognition database, but there is nothing in the law to prevent them from doing that,” she said.
After causing concern overseas for so long, it finally seems as though Facebook’s creepy photo recognition is becoming an issue here in the U.S., too.