Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is automated facial recognition and how is
Automated facial recognition is the process of
submitting an image containing a face into a
computer software program to compare against a
It can be used in multiple ways:
Public/Private Sector – Automated facial
recognition is used to verify an individual against
their stored face(s) or a small gallery of faces for
access (e.g., smartphone, automated teller machine,
frequent traveler, building access).
Public Safety/Government – Automated facial
recognition is used to search a biometric database
and produce a computer-generated candidate list of
facial images for further processing (e.g.,
identity/travel document issuance, processing, or
verification, searching unknown faces to aid an
2. What does “lights-out” mean in a facial
The term “lights-out” means a facial recognition
non-human process or workflow which is completely
3. What is facial image comparison?
Facial image comparison describes the manual process
of evaluating similarities and dissimilarities
between (a.) two (or more) facial images. or (b.)
facial image(s) and a subject for the purpose of
determining if they represent the same person or a
4. Are all facial image comparison processes the
No, there are several types of facial image
Facial Assessment generally involves a superficial,
often rapid, one-to-one comparison process of a
facial image to a live subject for the purpose of
identity verification (e.g., border crossing or
police traffic stop).
Facial Review involves a more complex comparison
process conducted between an image and a subject or
between sets of images.
Facial Examination is the formal, systematic
process (e.g., Analysis, Comparison, Evaluation
- Verification [ACE-V]) by which two or more
face images are compared. This may be an
intensive process that can reach the level of a
5. With the advancements in facial
recognition technology, why do we need humans in the
Automated facial recognition technology relies on a
computer-generated candidate list which may not
recognize details humans can perceive (e.g., changes
in pose, expression, age, etc.), leading to images
of the same person scoring weakly or different
people scoring strongly.
A human is therefore necessary to make the
comparison of the images and come to a decision.
6. Why are some image comparisons determined to be
Comparisons are conducted based on the quality and
quantity of details in the image(s) provided.
In many cases there is not enough detailed visual
information to make a definitive conclusion.
7. How long does a facial image comparison process
Depending on the quality of the image(s), the type
of the comparison, agency procedures, and experience
of the individual, the time required ranges from
minutes to hours.
8. What is the recommended method for facial
The Facial Identification Scientific Working Group
(FISWG) recommends Morphological Analysis as the
primary method for facial review and examination.
Morphological Analysis is an intensive,
systematic process of image comparison in which the
features of the face are described and compared, and
conclusions regarding similarity or difference are
based on subjective observations and evaluations.
For more information on the Morphological
9. Who is conducting facial image comparisons?
Facial image comparisons are generally performed by
individuals working within law enforcement,
government, national defense, and academic
institutions for research purposes.
10. Is there a certification for facial image
At this time, no public certification programs for
facial image comparison exist. However, the
International Association for Identification (IAI)
is currently working on guidelines to further
develop certification programs which are expected to
be available to practitioners within the next few
11. What training programs are available?
Many agencies/institutions have training programs
which are suited to their specific facial image
comparison needs. There are limited training
programs available to the general public.
12. I have experience
photographing/drawing/sculpting faces. Am I
qualified to conduct facial image comparisons?
Although experience as a portrait photographer,
sketch artist, cranial facial expert, etc., can be
helpful, the facial image comparison process
requires additional training, evaluation, and