Home » News » Some Security Systems Fooled by Aging Faces
Some Security Systems Fooled by Aging Faces

Some Security Systems Fooled by Aging Faces

Due to the natural aging process, automatic facial recognition systems are less likely to recognize your face after a period of six years, according to a new study at Michigan State University. The researchers emphasize the importance of taking new photo IDs every four to five years to lessen the chance of mistakes.

For the study, the researchers wanted to investigate to what extent facial aging affects the success of facial recognition systems and what implications this could have on successfully identifying criminals or determining when identification documents need to be renewed.

“We wanted to determine if state-of-the-art facial recognition systems could recognize the same face imaged multiple years apart, such as at age 20 and again at age 30,” said biometrics expert Dr. Anil Jain, University Distinguished Professor of computer science and engineering at Michigan State University.

“This is the first study of automatic facial recognition using a statistical model and large longitudinal face database.”

Jain and doctoral student Lacey Best-Rowden found that 99 percent of the face images can still be recognized up to six years later. However, the findings show that due to natural changes that occur to a face over time as a person ages, recognition accuracy begins to drop if the images of a person were taken more than six years apart.

This decrease in accuracy is person-dependent, however, as some people tend to age faster than others due to lifestyle, health conditions, environment, or genetics.

“This research shows the importance of capturing new images every four to five years to reduce the number of false positives or chance of not finding a candidate in a facial recognition search due to length of time between captures,” said Pete Langenfeld, manager in the Biometrics and Identification Division at the Michigan State Police.

“Criminal acquisition is dependent on the number of times a person is arrested, as the majority are not required to update their image. However, civil applications that require updated facial images should look at reducing the time between captures if it is greater than every four years.”

For the study, the researchers analyzed two police mugshot databases of 23,600 repeat criminal offenders with each offender having a minimum of four photos taken over at least a five-year period. Mugshot databases are the largest source of facial aging photos available with well-controlled standards to ensure the photos are uniform.

Source: Michigan State University
Picture of a man as he ages photo by shutterstock.

Some Security Systems Fooled by Aging Faces

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2018). Some Security Systems Fooled by Aging Faces. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 5, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 4 Mar 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.