Wherever you go, your face exposes you. Facial recognition in combination with surveillance cameras is a powerful tool that can track your every step.
Search engines are becoming ever smarter in managing massive amounts of data. Face search and facial recognition are just a few of many tools that target individuals. All public data combined, they can quickly unravel what an individual has been up to.
Here are three face search engines that may give you a thrill. Let’s see what they reveal about you or your friends.
1. Google Images Search — Reverse Face Search
Did you know that you could search Google by images? Rather than a keyword, you can use an image to search for similar images. Click the camera icon to search by image. You can either paste the image URL or upload an image and Google will find similar images.
Moreover, you can make Google search for faces only by adding a small bit of code. When you go to Google Images Search, enter your query, hit Enter, and then add “&imgtype=face” (without the quotes of course), either to the end of the search URL or right before another string starting with &. This will further improve the results of your face-related search.
Below is a before and after example that you can try for yourself:
Google also offers its face recognition in Google Photos.
2. PicTriev — Face Recognition
PicTriev goes one step further by actually searching for similar faces. Unfortunately, the feature is limited to look-alike celebrities.
What you do is add the URL or upload a photo in JPG or JPEG format, with a size no larger than 200 KB, and the search engine will return matching celebrity images found online.
For demonstration purposes, I used my own headshot. While PicTriev correctly identified me as overwhelmingly female, the number one match was Jason Clarke. The age estimation of 30, however, is very flattering.
It works much better if you search for a celebrity image.
PicTriev also lets you compare the similarity of two faces or estimate whether photos of two faces are the same person. Click the meter icon in the top right, upload two photos, select similarity or identity, and let PicTriev do its calculations.
Before you add photos, be sure to follow the instructions on formatting for best results.
3. PimEyes — Face Search
Similar to Google’s reverse face search, PimEyes uses images and face recognition to search for similar faces on over 10 million websites. The demos using celebrity faces like Angelina Jolie or Zac Efron look promising.
For example, you can search for Jennifer Aniston’s face using four different photos at once. PimEyes will find the original photos, as well as other shots of Aniston. Curiously, while the app does find the original pictures used for the search, the similarity is only scored at around 70%. Shouldn’t it be closer to 100%? Or does the algorithm take image resolution, size, brightness, and other digital alternations into account?
I tried the service myself, providing PimEyes with three different photos of me to analyze. The GIF below illustrates the process.
There are other photos of me to be found online, but PimEyes didn’t spot them. The best it could find was someone else’s face with a 62% similarity. Apparently, my pictures do not appear on one of the 10 million sites analyzed by PimEyes.
Bonus 1: FindFace — Face Search for VK.com
VK.com is Russia’s largest social network. And FindFace promises to find anybody on VK.com. To test this service, log into your VK account, grant the app permissions, and upload a JPG or PNG photo no larger than 5 MB.
You can fine-tune the initial result by gender, age, location, and relationship status.
In my case, it did find several surprising look-a-likes, but nothing too crazy.
Meanwhile, Russian photographer Egor Tsvetkov used FindFace for an art project that he termed Your Face Is Big Data. He took photos of strangers on the subway, found them on VK.com using FindFace, and learned a whole lot about their identity that they might never have told him, had he simply asked. The project highlights how invasive a simple photo can be.
Bonus 2: Betaface — Facial Recognition Demo
Betaface offers facial recognition similar to PicTriev’s photo identification. You can upload an image or send the image URL and the face search engine will isolate and characterize all the faces it can identify in the photo.
Next, you can compare faces (with other images you uploaded), search celebrities, or search Wikipedia for each recognized face. The results will appear in the Face recognition matches table.
This tool is useful for uploading and comparing photos in bulk. In addition to classifying faces based on 101 pro facial points, you can also enable extended geometric and color measurements, as well as a “best face only” feature. Both of these slow down the processing, but will increase the quality of your matches.
Bonus 3: TwinsOrNot.net — Face Similarity
Similar to PicTriev’s similarity feature, TwinsOrNot.net will estimate how likely it is that the two photos you upload are showing twins. This tool is powered by Microsoft.
I tested TwinsOrNot.net with two photos of myself that were taken five years apart. And it wasn’t to be fooled. Rather than identifying me as a twin of myself, TwinsOrNot.net guessed that I must be the same person. Great catch!
Interestingly, the site highlighted a small section of the photos to underscore its decision.
What Does Your Face Reveal?
Face recognition and search tools have a range of useful applications. Not only can they help the police identify suspects from security camera footage. They can also help professional photographers or media companies index visual material and build large and easy to search archives. Moreover, face recognition can replace passwords and keys.
But there’s a dark side to every tool. Not too long ago, the Facezam viral marketing scam highlighted what face recognition could do to your privacy. The creators of the app claimed that — within seconds — you could find anyone’s Facebook profile by uploading a picture of their face. Essentially, FindFace for Facebook.
While such an app violates Facebook’s privacy policies, Facebook itself uses facial recognition to identify people in photos (unless you disabled the feature). And presumably, Facebook’s face search engine is better than the FBI’s identification tool. Why? Because you’ve been voluntarily stuffing Facebook’s database with a huge variety of photos, all helping its AI improve faster than the FBI could ever dream of. And it’s all legal.
While you can’t always hide your face, you can protect your privacy online. How do you keep your face private?
Image Credit: Zapp2Photo via Shutterstock