SPECIAL REPORT: Facial Recognition


A CNN story in 2010 proclaimed that facial recognition had yet to become “scary.” It defined this prospect as a “creepiness” involved in using computers to identify people—accurately or not.

Police departments, financial institutions, corporations, and consumers around the world are now using facial-recognition technology, with varying degrees of accuracy, to do everything from logging in to Android phones to identifying suspected terrorists. For some, we are experiencing a scary combination of facial-recognition ubiquity and inaccuracy.

As government agencies use facial-recognition technologies in the name of public safety, brick-and-mortar businesses use it to track customers, however imprecisely, whether shopping in a department store or gambling in a casino. Meanwhile, online services such as Facebook and Google, whose identification algorithms seem to improve daily, use it to engage their users: Who doesn’t like to be tagged in friends’ photos?

As it turns out, at least a few people.

In our latest special report, we’re drilling into several aspects of this “scary” technology. Our lead story today focuses on the users—and uses—of facial recognition, outlining why the technology isn’t ready for Minority Report-style prime time. (Hint: It’s more than just a privacy issue.)

In a Q&A feature tomorrow, Parallax contributing writer Charlie Cooper speaks with biometrics pioneer Joseph Atick about dangers in the technology he helped create.

And on Thursday, we conclude with guidance on how to keep your face off the Internet, featuring tips from one man who’s ostensibly accomplished just that. (It’s not easy, but it is doable…right?)

Thank you for reading, and thank you to Charlie and Pinguino for contributing to our latest special report. We welcome direct feedback via social media. You can also reach me at seth@the-parallax.com.

Seth Rosenblatt

Editor, The Parallax