facial recognition

An image from the facial recognition study, showing how computer can ‘see’ faces
Facebook's artificial intelligence chief worked on the development of systems which could one day help computers automatically spy on humans, The Sun Online has learned.

Yann LeCun, leader of Mark Zuckerberg's AI research division, contributed to academic papers exploring the creation of software which would serve as a "key component" in an automated surveillance network.

Computer surveillance is likely to become hugely controversial in the coming years, as it will allow cops, spooks and even private companies to track individual people's movements.

Eventually, CCTV cameras will be able to work out the identity of the people they are looking at - as long as they have pictures of them.

Facebook, of course, has a huge number of images uploaded by users and already uses facial recognition to automatically sort photos based on who's in them and where they were taken.

LeCun, the Facebook tech guru, was one of four authors of a study aimed at teaching computers how to identify people as they walked down a street, a technique known as pedestrian detection.

This technique is useful in surveillance and security because it allows computers to quickly analyse CCTV footage and work out if it can see a human or not.

"Pedestrian detection is a key problem for surveillance," the team wrote.

"The wide variety of appearances of pedestrians due to body pose, clothing, lighting and backgrounds makes this task challenging."

LeCun also worked on a study exploring facial recognition, an area of technology focused on allowing computers to detect people's face. Sophisticated version of this tech can reliably work out someone's identity.

In the paper, LeCun and his team wrote: "The detection of human faces in natural images and videos is a key component in a wide variety of applications of human-computer interaction... security, and surveillance."

One day, it appears likely that CCTV cameras will use refined versions of both pedestrian detection and facial recognition.

This would make the cameras useful for stopping crimes such as shoplifting, but raises serious privacy concerns.

A Russian computer expert has already shown the terrifying implications of modern surveillance technology by tracking down women he spotted on the street using just one photograph.