What are Facial Biometrics?

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  • Written By: Klaus Strasser
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2019
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Facial biometrics is a method used for the identification of human beings by their facial features. Advances in technology have made facial biometrics possible through facial recognizing systems, which are computer applications. These systems process the various facial biometric data of an individual and compare such measurements with a database. Applications of facial biometrics are generally used for various security or investigative purposes, such as access control, identity access management, and surveillance.

Biometrics typically refers to physical or behavioral characteristics used for the recognition or verification of individuals. Physiological biometrics may include fingerprints, facial features, and DNA, among other traits. Behavioral biometrics employs data such as the tone of a person's voice or the manner in which they walk to help identify them.

Facial biometrics is commonly divided into three main areas: distinctiveness, robustness, and measurability. Distinctiveness entails the facial traits of an individual that differ from those of the general population. Robustness analyzes how facial features may change over time, looking for more constant traits not susceptible to the passage of time. Measurability refers to how easily facial characteristics can be identified.


With advances in technology, facial biometric scanning systems have become more common. These computer applications may use any number of features of the face to perform an analysis. Computers employing facial biometrics examine the general spatial geometry of the face. Other methods include smile recognition which analyzes the changes of wrinkle patterns on a face when it is smiling. Facial thermograms detect facial heat patterns unique to every person using an infrared camera.

Facial biometrics can use all of this material to help make identifications through the widespread presence of video and surveillance cameras. Professionals view this as a non-intrusive form of investigation, because only a video recording of a face is needed to perform analysis and no detention of an individual is required. This usually avoids any possible legal or confrontational problems. In this regard, facial recognition systems could be advantageous for covert operations and surveillance.

Existing databases of facial records are an important part of facial biometrics. Security organizations usually have access to any number of facial biometric data, such as mug shots. Through the comparison of surveillance footage, data can be compared to already-existing records.

Facial biometrics has been used for a wide variety of security purposes. These include cases of shoplifting, where the accused is filmed on a security camera. The study of facial biometrics may ascertain the possible guilt of the person. Access to buildings or other private areas can be granted by a computer application that recognizes the individual allowing him or her access.


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