TIME Science

This Awesome Facial Recognition Technology Could Replace Passwords


As much as we love "qwerty"...

After decades of either getting hacked for making your password something easy like “password” or getting locked out of your computer for making it something ridiculously hard to remember (like the name of the Queen’s second favorite Corgi plus a series of random number), researchers might have finally found a way to solve your crummy password conundrum.

A report was published in the journal PeerJ Tuesday that explores a new password alternative called “Facelock,” which is based on the psychology of facial recognition.

Essentially, psychological research has proven that while people can recognize many different photographs of the same person, unfamiliar faces are associated with a specific image. So if you see the same stranger in multiple different action shots, it almost seems like they’re different people. (Now you know why online dating profiles can be so confusing.)

To use Facelock, researchers propose that users would flag a set of faces that they know pretty well but others may not — like an ambiguously famous comedian. To unlock whatever you’re trying to unlock, the user would then simply have to identify said face on a series of grids (that would be trained to feature faces from a similar field, in this case the illustrious jazz flute ingenues). The face would stick out to the password creator and fraudsters wouldn’t see a difference.

Research showed that the faces were easily identified 97.5% of the time with an 86% success rate a year later. Strangers had a less than 1% success rate and people who knew the password-maker only succeeded 6.6% of the time.

“Pretending to know a face that you don’t know is like pretending to know a language that you don’t know—it just doesn’t work,” said lead author Dr. Rob Jenkins of the University of York. “The only system that can reliably recognize faces is a human who is familiar with the faces concerned.”

Pretty cool, although we have grown kind of attached to “qwerty” …

Tap to read full story

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com


Dear TIME Reader,

As a regular visitor to TIME.com, we are sure you enjoy all the great journalism created by our editors and reporters. Great journalism has great value, and it costs money to make it. One of the main ways we cover our costs is through advertising.

The use of software that blocks ads limits our ability to provide you with the journalism you enjoy. Consider turning your Ad Blocker off so that we can continue to provide the world class journalism you have become accustomed to.

The TIME Team