FindFace facial recognition app

System: February 2016

Launched in February 2016, FindFace is a facial recognition tool developed by Russian technology company NtechLab that analysed an image of a person and matched it to their account on Russian social network VKontakte.

Initially billed as a dating site, FindFace was later re-developed as a surveillance tool for government and business.

Privacy

FaceApp was the first app to raise significant alarm about the power of facial recognition used at scale. The app boasted 70% accuracy, a rate of success was verified by a Russian artist who tested it out by taking photos of people sitting across from him on the subway. 

NtechLab had previously won the MegaFace Challenge, in which facial recognition teams were encouraged to download a database of facial images and see how their algorithms performed when they had to distinguish between a million possible matches.

Doxxing prostitutes

FindFace garnered controversy as Russian imageboard 2chan used it to deanonymise and harass Russian porn actresses and alleged prostitutes, and spam their friends and families with news of their discovery.

According to a GlobalVoices report, participants of the campaign were motivated by moral outrage towards an industry they viewed as 'corrupt and deceptive.'

Political surveillance

FaceApp founders told The Guardian the tool was primarily a promotional tool for its facial recognition technology, with the real money likely to come from law enforcement and retail. 

NtechLab is known to have helped power Buenos Aires' Fugitive Facial Recognition System (Sistema de Reconocimiento Facial de Prófugos (SNRP)), and develop Russian ethnicity identification capabilities. 

It also helped set up the Moscow Metro's facial recognition-based Face Pay system.

Operator: NtechLab
Developer: Artem Kukharenko; Alexander Kabakov; Maxim Perlin
Country: Russia
Sector: Media/entertainment/sports/arts; Business/professional services
Purpose: Verify identity
Technology: Facial recognition
Issue: Ethics; Privacy; Safety
Transparency: Governance; Privacy

Page info
Type: System
Published: March 2023