FacialNetwork: Why Big Brother will be a Big Winner

"FacialNetwork is at the confluence of three pivotal technology trends and is leveraging the latest advancements in mobile, cloud and big data to create practical facial recognition applications."


Facial recognition itself is nothing new – the technology has been around since the 1960’s. The first “semi-automated system for face recognition required administrators to locate features on photographs before it calculated distances and ratios to a common reference point, which were then compared to reference data. […] The problem with these early solutions was that measurements and locations were manually computed. Thanks to technological advancement, this is no longer the case – software today allows for speed of recognition and scalability of the technology.

Facial recognition combined with the power of cloud computing, translates into a totally different animal – one that FacialNetwork is poised to dominate. The “technology is more than disruptive, [and] FacialNetwork is the industry leader in an industry that doesn’t even exist yet – cloud-based facial recognition.”[1]

FacialNetwork’s software can automatically identify individuals from digital images or video capture. “Unlike fingerprinting and voice recognition, facial recognition software yields nearly instant results because subject consent is not required.”[2] “FacialNetwork is at the confluence of three pivotal technology trends and is the only company leveraging the latest advancements in mobile, cloud and big data to create practical facial recognition applications.”[3]

Why is FacialNetwork a winner?

It has effectively identified and built ways of creating a scalable pool of data that will be of increasing value to a variety of industries. It has done so by (1) building a baseline of facial data and profiles – sourced from publicly available information – to create free apps that will attract users. These users, in turn, will (2) enter more data into the FacialNetwork ecosystem, making the entire dataset and algorithms more powerful. As this loop continues, the system becomes more and more powerful, and valuable. As this value is created, FacialNetwork can then turn to (3) effective value capturing mechanisms, such as selling data or services – a value creation and capture model very much à la Google.

Value creation and capture

Value creation

 speed and scale

FacialNetwork’s value creation is built on a foundation of the speed and scale of its facial recognition search engine. Next, building its “facial recognition compute cloud for mobile and wearable devices […] has prepared the platform for a large-scale user base.”[4] The fact that “FacialNetwork is pioneering facial recognition on mobile and wearables”[5] is key, versus Facebook, for instance, which already uses large scale recognition, but whose application of the technology stops “on-screen.” FacialNetwork is going beyond this, to create seamless integration between online and offline identities.

Just as Google created value by offering its search and many applications to individuals for free, FacialNetwork will offer apps built to be used flexibly across devices, which they believe will be attractive to individuals. Some examples are included below: 


Demo – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVwBXr_nU9Q


The NameTag app allows you to identify anyone physically around you in real time – if his/her face and any data are present in FacialNetwork, you enter a photo using your device, and his/her identity is instantly returned.







You can imagine using this app through a wearable such as GoogleGlass – information about the individual will immediately be presented, akin to how Sherlock villain Charles Augustus Magnusson could pull up his adversaries’ “pressure points” in real time on his glasses. Other applications could include assisting those with memory-related illnesses to remember names.

It’s not difficult to extend one’s imagination to numerous other possibilities of what may be offered to users – from hybrid facial recognition authentication that could make current password systems obsolete, to aiding those with vision problems.

Value Capturing

Value may be captured by using this powerful and ever growing facial data – tied to people’s online and offline identities – by selling ”profiles”, or through paid services; which could span across numerous industries, including retail (offering retailers a way to match a “profile” with an individual who walks into a physical store), hospitality (“allowing the guest services industry to instantly identify loyal customers and enable enhanced, personalized service”[7]), advertisers of all sorts (think Tom Cruise in Minority Report), security, banking, healthcare, and on and on.

If FacialNetwork does indeed succeed in its mission of indexing faces linked to profiles, gaining users through its apps, and capturing value through paid services, it does look as though Big Brother will be the Big Winner, and anonymity, the Big Loser. The impact of legislation and the “right to one’s face” and data, which lags behind technology in this arena, remains to be seen.

[1] Source: http://websphere.sys-con.com/node/3153499

[2] Source: https://www.techopedia.com/definition/26948/facial-recognition-software

[3] Source: http://websphere.sys-con.com/node/3153499

[4] Source: Kevin Alan Tussy, CEO of FacialNetwork, http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/facialnetwork-releases-new-demo-of-facial-recognition-app-nametag-on-google-glass-receives-cease-and-desist-from-facebook-274649581.html

[5] Source: Kevin Alan Tussy, CEO of FacialNetwork, http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/facialnetwork-releases-new-demo-of-facial-recognition-app-nametag-on-google-glass-receives-cease-and-desist-from-facebook-274649581.html

[6] Source: http://venturebeat.com/2013/04/13/marketing-facial-recognition/

[7] Source: http://facialnetwork.com


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Student comments on FacialNetwork: Why Big Brother will be a Big Winner

  1. This sounds great. I only see one potential challenge to maintain the integrity of the data they’re collecting. I understand they have an initial baseline to launch the app, which will be improved and updated with the images collected by future users. Therefore, whenever a user “scans” a new face, will he be able to create a new profile associated to that face? If so, the application should have processes in place that ensure that new users are created with the correct information and avoid having multiple profiles for the same user.

  2. Excellent post. Terrifying concept.

    Advancements such as these that reduce entire people to a list of statistics seem designed to further the interests of people who are lucky enough to have been born with means and who have never had to take any risks to succeed in life. For these people, the future seems to require a level of baseline conservatism and risk aversion that prevent real progress. For the rest of the world, this technology will likely make it easier (and more justifiable) to discriminate against already disenfranchised groups, such as people with criminal records and low credit scores.

    In an increasingly connected world, I find it disturbing that so many developments in big data seem designed to diminish our humanity, rather than to help us see what we share as people.

    1. ‘Terrifying’ indeed – that was also my reaction when I came across this company’s demo. Thank you for sharing your reactions so frankly and eloquently – this is certainly part of the discussion I hoped to elicit by writing about this topic.

      In response to people like us who are concerned about the serious implications of such apps being launched to the public, this company (or others pursuing similar work) argue that the information they have built their search engines on is ‘already out there.’ While it’s true that my photo, linked to my name may be online already, by my own volition or through someone else posting this content to the Internet without my consent, what they are offering to the public should in no means be qualified as “out there already,” or be defensible through this argument. Yes, someone today who knows my name (information A), can search for a photo or some other information pertaining to me (information B) based on this. However, changing the order in which these actions can be executed – that is, someone can use “information B” to find “information A” – translates into a radically different action overall. I would encourage people to think in terms of the profound difference in the order of these paired “A” and “B” actions – and why this means their argument that “the information is already out there” is not really the salient point to be making here.

      Senator Franken (D-Minn) has publicly raised concerns about the launch of FacialNetwork’s apps – if you interested, you can read more here, including his open letter to FacialNetwork CEO Kevin Tussy – http://www.franken.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=2699

      Amongt other things, Franken tells Tussy that his company “has a duty to act as a responsible corporate citizen in deploying this technology” even though there are currently no federal laws related to facial recognition. Technological innovation and deployment in such areas are sometimes increasingly outpacing society’s ability to full grasp and react to its ramifications for us, and it’s important to consider appropriate applications, or “winners,” which will not “diminish our humanity”, as you so aptly put it, and have the potential to lead us to a Brave New World, left unchecked.

  3. Great post and thanks for sharing. I agree with Kevin – this technology is terrifying, but inevitable. The privacy advocate in me is thinking of ways to make this application useless. At the moment, the only effective method I can think of would be to create false positives on massive scale. For instance, having matches of “John Smith” appear in 3,456 locations around the world in the same hour. Obviously, those creating the technology will tout it’s benefits, which are real, like identifying criminals and easily tagging your besties. I, however, think the negatives far outweigh positives. Thanks again for sharing.

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