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“Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”   ~ Walt Whitman

The ability of law enforcement to maintain order has always depended on its capacity to outmatch the technological advancements of society’s underbelly. From the early days of systematic photography, to polygraph machines, to the ultra-modern technology of facial recognition, forensic science always strives to remain one step ahead of the criminals who prey upon the law-abiding population.

Although facial recognition technology has existed for over a decade, it has had its limitations. Until recently, criminals were able to beat facial recognition if the image of them was not fully captured, i.e. profile or partially covered face. (The recent failure of facial recognition in the Boston bomber manhunt is a great example of that limitation.)

This inadequacy may now be a thing of the past, as facial recognition technology recently underwent a significant milestone. According to Face Forensics Inc., its software now has the ability to match only a portion of someone’s face on previously uploaded full faces. This is bad news for the Phantom of the Opera.

But, seriously.

This is a huge advancement for law enforcement officials who have extensive databases of full faces, but have had problems linking those faces to partially captured facial images. How amazing would it be if this technology could make a match by using only a nose? Or an eye? Or an ear?

The ability to identify criminals at large will dramatically increase. If a camera could simply capture a glimpse of a perp, and then let the facial recognition software match the partial image to a full face – it will prove much more difficult for criminals to evade cameras by simply averting their full faces from known surveillance cameras.

While facial recognition was primarily developed for law enforcement purposes, there are also other surprising uses for this technology. Hotels use it to greet guests. Casinos utilize it to identify problem gamblers. And dating sites use it to help their members find soul mates.

The reality of our world is slowly catching up to science fiction. And, it seems to be only a matter of time before all of our faces will be under constant surveillance. I am not so sure that’s a good thing. How about you?

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