How Does Snapchat’s Facial Recognition Software Work?

Snapchat filters are fun — but how do they actually work? Furthermore, what kind of information does the app have on you if it can show your face?

Snapchat is a app that’s swept the world over the past few years, and it undoubtedly provides a lot of entertainment and laughs — and wonder as to how its technology actually works. But how much can you really trust apps like Snapchat? It must be said that it’s important to use caution when using any apps or websites that learn information about your identity and your actions because some of these apps or websites may be malicious.

One of Snapchat’s most advanced — and exciting — features are filters. Many of those boast facial recognition, where it turns its user into a different character whenever it’s used. But how does that technology work, and what does Snapchat know about you that you may not have realized? Find out below.

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Snapchat’s Facial Recognition
The Snapchat filters that we all adore come from a Ukrainian startup called Looksery, which was acquired for an impressive $150 million by Snapchat. While the company tries to keep it under wraps exactly how their technology works, there’s been research done on the topic.

To put it in layman’s terms, the app uses computer vision to spot you based on contrast patterns that can commonly be found in the human face. It uses a general “map” or “graph” to find people’s faces and overlay the features of these filters. To make this work, Snapchat trained their system with hundreds or even thousands of different faces, manually marking them where features lay: nose, mouth, eyes, and overall face. That means that when each of us uses the filters on our own faces, the program can use up to 24 frames per second to use its “point-mask” to shift to match your specific face.

How Much Does Snapchat Know?
This cool (but slightly creepy) process does pose a question: How much does Snapchat know about us? Should we be taking measures while using the app to protect our identity? While the tool does seem to have a lot of information on us — our contact list, our name, our location, and even our current activities — it doesn’t seem that the application can detect too much about us via the facial recognition apps. It may learn more about our facial features and the structure of our face, but it’s not presenting anything too crazy at the moment. This means that we can snap away using these fun and quirky filters without fear.