Controversial FindFace app can identify strangers on street
It’s the app that’s taken Russia by storm – and prompted concerns over privacy.
Upload a photograph of someone’s face and FindFace will search billions of photographs in less than a second to try to find that person on social media.
Launched earlier this year, the app scans users on Russian social network Vkontakte to find the exact person, or those who look similar, based on the picture.
One million users have already enlisted FindFace to track down people they know or – as some have suggested – attempt to find a stranger they’ve snapped on the street.
Founder and chief executive Artem Kuharenko, speaking to BusinessCloud from Moscow, says his business NTechLab has also received letters from police forces that have reopened cold cases and used the app with photos of suspects they had on file.
“In Russia it has become very widely used and people have been really keen on the project,” he says.
“We also have a show in Russia called ‘Wait for me’ where relatives are looking for lost family members, and FindFace is now used in that show.”
The app takes measurements from unchanging facial features such as eye shape and size, and lip shape, discounting those features that can change due to age, facial expression or when that person is wearing glasses.
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The algorithm recognises faces in a more sophisticated way, picking up many more subtle features that are not perceptible to the human brain and creating an index of numbers for the face.
This is then compared to faces in the system which have already been measured. A list of potential matches are then brought up.
While privacy has been a concern for some, Kuharenko says users can opt to hide their faces from the app. He is keen to point out that the benefits of the system far outweigh any concerns.
The app is 70 per cent accurate when searching a data set of 250m photos.
NTechLab is currently in talks about integrating the technology into security cameras around Moscow, as well as other cities in Europe and the US.
“After a crime you could search all the state cameras to find that person, which would make it really hard for the criminal to be in the city,” he adds.