In his review of Kelly Gates's Our Biometric Future: Facial Recognition Technology and the Culture of Surveillance, author Evgeny Morozov takes an objective look at the history of facial recognition technology (FRT). What he finds is that despite a lot of investment and the work of some really smart people, the difficulty presented by the problem of matching faces has left us with a surprising lack of success. Bolstered by facts from Gates's book, Morozov provides a simple explanation of the challenges underlying FRT, discusses how the threat of terrorism created a tenfold increase in the size of the industry, and looks at some of the technology's newer developments, such as the development of Omron's "Smile Scan," which allows businesses to check the toothiness of their employees' grins (pictured above).
Along the way, Morozov points out some of the industry's biggest failures, like when last year a man was allowed through Manchester Airport on his wife's passport, or a 2009 research paper showing that, when presented individuals with heavy plastic surgery, FRT systems' effectiveness fell to just two percent. Whatever its shortcomings, with companies like Google and Facebook adding face detection to their products, and recent advancements in imaging research, we aren't expecting the drive toward constant ubiquitous surveillance to stop any time soon.