Biometrics have changed the way we do security these days, with technologies like fingerprint recognition commonly used for access to high security areas such as those involved in high-level government security.

Although it’s not the most popular biometric security method at present, facial recognition security is becoming more popular as facial recognition software and other technologies become both more affordable and more accurate.

How it works

Facial recognition security works by recording an individual’s facial characteristics and then comparing the structure, distance between the eyes mouth and nose, and the general shape of the face based upon the locations and proportions of the cheekbones, nose and mouth, and eye sockets, and the outline of the jaw, all in relation to each other.

When facial recognition is to be used as part of a biometrics security undertaking, subjects allow several pictures of themselves to be taken, with different facial expressions and at different angles. For verification, subjects stand in front of the camera for a few seconds, and the resulting image is compared using facial recognition software to images that have been previously recorded. For greater security and so that masks cannot be used to try to fool the system, subjects may be asked to smile, blink or nod as they are verified, and/or facial thermography may be used to measure facial heat.

What are the benefits of facial recognition security, and its drawbacks?

As you might imagine, there are both benefits and drawbacks to this type of security.


It’s unobtrusive, and can be used for surveillance, such as when the government is working on catching criminals.

As technology improves, and cameras are included on most computer systems, facial recognition software can be a cost-effective way to identify employees and other individuals as needed.

It’s especially effective when used in combination with other biometric methods (such as fingerprinting) to improve verification and verification system results, for even greater accuracy.


· Can be inaccurate

In its present incarnations, this security is still in its infancy. 2-D facial recognition software especially can be negatively affected by poor lighting, or other environmental factors that can affect accuracy. Although 3-D facial recognition software and technology does exist, it’s still quite expensive as compared to older technology.

· Requires frequent updating

Facial recognition security also requires frequent updates in order to remain accurate. While fingerprints, for example, remain static and unchanged throughout life, age affects how we look; for that reason, as we age, images will need to be regularly updated to ensure accurate data is used. If they are not accurate in that they’ve been taken several years previously, the system could erroneously exclude an individual who should be given access, or could bypass an individual who should not be given access.

· Allows an individual to be identified without his or her knowledge

The very thing that makes this security so great is also a significant drawback. Used positively, it allows an individual to be identified without his or her knowledge when that individual may be a danger to society and needs to be kept track of unobtrusively.