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This search engine is basically Google but for facial recognition

Why do we keep doing things the sci-fi movies have told us not to do?

facial recognition at a music festival
Image: Fight For The Future

If the thought of people Googling your name didn’t bother you enough, they now can search the internet for your face, instead. The new facial recognition tool, PimEyes, seems like something out of a science fiction movie.

PimEyes is basically Google but for images of faces. You can upload a face to the website and it will scour the web and return results within seconds. And the technology behind the platform is surprisingly impressive.

The service costs $29.99 per month, so there is a paywall in front of the website. But beyond that, anyone can use PimEyes to browse for photos of themself or others that may exist online.

facial recognition software examples
Image: The New York Times

A few reporters from The New York Times recently tested out PimEyes to see just how capable the website is. And the results were understandably surprising.

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The website was able to return images from years in the past that matched the uploaded images. PimEyes was able to return images of users wearing sunglasses, hats, and even face masks. One reporter even found an image of themself in the middle of a crowd during Coachella back in 2011.

Why does a website like PimEyes exist in the first place?

pimeyes facial recognition
Image: The New York Times

A service like this obviously raises some ethical questions. According to the owner of the website, Giorgi Gobronidze, users are only supposed to search for images of themselves or of people who have consented to the search.

But there’s nothing in place to stop someone from searching another person’s face. Gobronidze told The Times that he relies on users acting “ethically” on PimEyes. And we all know ethics tends to take a backseat on the internet.

And what’s even worse is a feature that lets you exclude images you find of yourself from public results on the website.

That’s a pretty decent feature, right? But that feature is only available to subscribers on the platform who pay for the “PROtect plans.” And those plans can cost anywhere from $89.99 to $299.99 per month.

That sounds a lot like extortion to me. Essentially, you can hide your images from PimEyes search results, but only if you open up your wallet even more than the original subscription price.

While PimEyes does exhibit some impressive technology, it brings up the age-old problem that presents itself in most sci-fi movies: “We spent so much time trying to figure out if we could, that we never stopped to ask if we should.”

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Staff writer at KnowTechie. Alex has two years of experience covering all things technology, from video games to electric cars. He's a gamer at heart, with a passion for first-person shooters and expansive RPGs. Shoot him an email at alex@knowtechie.com

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