Facial recognition software has come a long way in recent years. It used to only be in sci-fi, like Star Trek or Minority Report. Now it’s part of our everyday lives. Your very first interaction with facial recognition software may have come in the form Facebook tagging images of people without your help or to unlock your new iPhone X.

While each facial recognition software works slightly different from the next, overall you will find more similarities than differences. In this article, we’ll cover the process known as “Facial Scanning” — along with showing you how to turn it off.

Facial Scanning

When you hold an iPhone up to your face and it unlocks the screen, how exactly does this work? While Apple hasn’t released its exact algorithm, nor do we expect them to, most facial recognition programs will measure up to 80 features on your face. This includes everything from the distance between your eyes, the width of your eyes, the size of your nose, the distance from your chin to your forehead, and so on.

The software creates what is called a nodal point, which is basically a dot at important landmarks on your face (pupils, point of nose, center of chin, and so on). Similar to your fingerprint, everyone has a unique facial map. In a way, facial recognition works in a similar way to a fingerprint scanner — but instead of in a 2D space, it works in three dimensions.

Initially, your phone (or another device with facial recognition technology) will ask to perform a scan of your face. It likely will have you adjust the camera to take pictures from varying angles. This allows the device to create a 3D map of the nodal points on your face. From here, it can compare nodal points every time facial recognition is activated.

You may have seen those somewhat shocking “deep fake” videos, where it looks like you’re watching video footage of a celebrity when it’s really just someone else with the celebrity’s face pasted on. Those work in a similar way to facial recognition software: the video editor feeds multiple images of the same person’s face from different angles into a computer program, allowing it to create a simulation of how that person’s face moves, speaks, and emotes. Both impressive and kind of terrifying!

Turning Facial Recognition OFF

Of course, you probably don’t want your facial map just floating around out there. Platforms like Facebook can scan your face and store this in a data server. With the frequency of data server breaches, the last thing you want is someone obtaining your physical information. So… is there anything you can do to stop it?

Fortunately, yes, but Facebook doesn’t make it easy. If you want to turn off facial recognition on the Facebook mobile app, bring up your profile, choose “More,” then select “View Privacy Shortcuts.” Now select “More Settings,” choose “Face Recognition,” and choose to turn it off here.

Want to turn off facial recognition on your phone? On your iOS device go to “Settings,” “Face ID and Passcode”, and choose “Toggle Off.” For Android, choose “Settings,” “Lock Screen and Security,” then choose the facial option and turn it off.

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