You may soon know what it feels like to be John Anderton on the run in Minority Report, because facial recognition software is moving fast, and it’s aiming to perform almost identical functions as those ubiquitous eye scanners did in the 2002 film. Case in point: FindFace, a new app exploding in popularity in Russia, which allows users to identify strangers’ faces, and then target them with advertisements, or perform a range of other functions that will likely give Ed Snowden ulcers.
FindFace, The Guardian reports, was founded by two Russian entrepreneurs, Artem Kukharenko and Alexander Kabakov. It lets users take pictures of complete strangers and then identify them by searching through a database of over one billion photos, which has been amassed thanks to Russia’s Facebook-like social network, Vkontakte.
“With [our] algorithm, you can search through a billion photographs in less than a second from a normal computer,” Kabakov said in an interview with The Guardian. And although the app is limited to Vkontakte’s one billion photos right now, the app is compatible with almost any other photographic database — although Facebook is currently off the table.
The app’s founders say that it’s perfect for dating because users can take pictures of people they like and then use the app to find and connect with them via social networks. And if the creep factor on that function alone isn’t high enough, the app can also help you find somebody who looks similar to somebody else. Why would you want to do that? “So you could just upload a photo of a movie star you like, or your ex, and then find 10 girls who look similar to her and send them messages,” said Kabakov.
The biggest aims for the app are straight up Minority Report, however: advertising and law enforcement. In fact, Russian police have already used the app to help find and identify people, and the Moscow city government wants to use it in conjunction with its 150,000 CCTV cameras so they can identify people who were near the scene of a crime. And as for retail advertising, well, “you could go for a Guinness right about now,” couldn’t you? (Seriously, Kukharenko and Kabakov want the app to be able to track when you’re looking at a product and then enable a retailer to send you an advertisement for it.)
But FindFace, of course, is not alone in developing facial recognition tech. Silicon Valley behemoths like Google and Facebook are working hard on their own facial recognition software, and it seems inevitable that the word “anonymous” will soon be anachronistic. If that is the case, the most pertinent questions then become, is there a place we can grab some fresh Yakamoto eyes, and will Ed Snowden be able to move to Elon Musk’s colony on Mars?
Do you want to move to a colony on Mars after hearing about FindFace? Let us recognize and track your opinions in the comments below!
Images: 20th Century Fox; Flickr // Justin Pickard