July 11, 2012

Who does Facebook think that you are?

BY :     July 11, 2012

According to Facebook my name is Sabine Baak, deputy editor in Chief at Vogue. Facebook isn’t completely sure, but they predict a 37% chance that I am working for Vogue and could find myself surrounded by beautiful woman and jet set stars. I wish Facebook was right.

The tool that I used is called “Face.com”, just very recently acquired by Facebook for an estimated $60 million dollar. It’s a facial recognition tool, not only “highly accurate” but able to identify faces “despite difficult circumstances like poor lighting, poor focus, subjects wearing eyeglasses, facial hair, and even Halloween costumes”. I’m not wearing a Halloween costume, don’t have facial hair (luckily the real Sabine hasn’t too).

My n =1 research on this facial analytics tool makes me wonder. There’s a lot to do about privacy. In the UK campaign group Privacy International told the BBC: “Facebook are in the process of building the largest and most accurate facial recognition database in the world, and with great power comes great responsibility”. If this is the most accurate database, the privacy watchdogs can go to sleep again.

But I agree, Facebook has a great responsibility. The first responsibility is to get it right. I’m not Sabine Baak. But I can learn the app that I am actually me and Sabine is Sabine by tagging foto’s. I just did that and now I’m probably in their cloud database somewhere. When I now point the camera at me it says “Menno” on top of my photo.

Face.com thinks “you’ll be impressed by how accurate our face recognition technology is”. If you want to know who you are, download the “Klik” app for your smartphone and take a picture of yourself. If you’re also Sabine Baak please let me know, I’m curious.

Menno van Doorn


Menno is Director of the Sogeti Research Institute for the Analysis of New Technology (VINT). He mixes personal life experiences with the findings of the 19 years of research done at the VINT Research Institute.

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  1. Menno van Doorn · July 11, 2012 Reply

    Sorry but…

    Facebook just Killed Face.com’s Face Recognition APIs Including Klik iPhone App. You can read the story here http://techie-buzz.com/social-networking/face-recognition-face-com-api-shut-down.html

    Rumours are that facebook will come with the face recognition api integrated in their own platform.

    Be patient.

*Opinions expressed on this blog reflect the writer’s views and not the position of the Sogeti Group