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Facebook can spot you in photos, even if your face is hidden

Barry Collins
23 Jun 2015
Facebook face tag
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Software magic allows Facebook to identify people from their clothing, hairstyle and other factors

Facebook is developing an algorithm that can identify people in photographs, even if the person's face is hidden from view. Photo sharing is a key part of the social network, but uploading and tagging photos remains a chore that Facebook is keen to ease. 

Facebook already offers face recognition to selected users, suggesting the names of friends and family that appear in your photos. Now the company wants to take the recognition a step further.

The company has developed software that can identify people even when their face is obscured, either because they're facing away from the camera or something (such as a long fringe or mask) is covering their face. The software will instead rely on other factors to identify people, including their body shape, hairstyle and clothing, according to a report in the New Scientist

"There are a lot of cues we use," Yann LeCun, the social network's head of artificial intelligence, told the New Scientist. "People have characteristic aspects, even if you look at them from the back. "For example, you can recognise [Facebook CEO] Mark Zuckerberg very easily, because he always wears a gray T-shirt."

Facebook's researchers tested their software by downloading 40,000 photos from Flickr, some that had the subject's face clearly visible, and others where the face was hidden. After tweaking with their algorithm, they managed to achieve an 83% recognition rate with the obscured face photos. 

The technology could eventually be implemented into Facebook's photo apps, most notably Instagram and the recently launched Moments, which is designed for sharing photos of a particular event or gathering with friends. 

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