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Facebook’s new algorithm can recognise you even if your face is hidden

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Article Source: Facebooks New Algorithm

We are just beginning to come to grips with the idea that computers and algorithms can recognize our faces, and the implications that has for privacy. Now the head of Facebook’s artificial-intelligence research lab says that an experimental algorithm he helped develop for the giant social network can recognize you with a high degree of accuracy even if your face is hidden from the camera.

Yann LeCun, an expert in computer vision and pattern recognition who was hired by Facebook FB 1.12% in 2013, presented his research at a recent conference in Boston. He told New Scientist magazine that he wanted to see whether the same kinds of algorithms used for facial recognition could be tweaked to recognize people from other physical characteristics—their body type, the way they stand, etc.

“There are a lot of cues we use. People have characteristic aspects, even if you look at them from the back,” said LeCun, a former BellLabs researcher who helped develop the algorithm used by many U.S. banks to verify handwriting on checks. “For example, you can recognise Mark Zuckerberg very easily, because he always wears a gray T-shirt.”

The research took 40,000 public photos from the social network, some of which showed people with their faces fully visible to the camera and others with their faces partially or fully hidden. After running them through the recognition filter, LeCun said the system could determine a user’s identity with 83% accuracy. Using its existing algorithms, Facebook has said that it can recognize you with 98% accuracy—in fact, its software can identify you in one picture out of 800 million in less than 5 seconds.

Companies like Facebook are interested in facial recognition so that they can help users organize their photos, the way the social network wants to do with its recently launched Moments feature—which automatically sorts your pictures into different categories, and can detect when you and your friends upload photos of the same event.

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