The Unexpected Benefit Of Taking Face Mask Selfies

Are you a fan of face masks? Ok, so they're always a little uncomfortable to wear, we get it, but you know, they do actually look kind of cute, lending everyone's face an air of mystery or even a dashing bandito kind of look (should you be of the manly persuasion). Plus, like them or not, face masks are a necessary part of life in this post (or not-so-post) pandemic world we're living in.

Since face masks are obviously the must-have accessory item (literally must-have, like warm boots in winter) of winter/spring/summer/and most likely fall 2020, people are trying to have a little fun with them. You can now get face masks in all manner of wild colors and patterns, and what's the point of having such frills and furbelows if you can't show them off a little bit? Thus, the face mask selfie has most definitely become a thing, which no doubt you've noticed if you've spent any time on Instagram over the past few months. 

What you might not know, however, is that thousands of such images have been collected and compiled as a training aid for facial recognition software.

How your masked mugshot helps train AI

As CNET explains it, the prevalence of face mask-wearing worldwide has created difficulties for facial recognition programs. Even artificial intelligence needs something to work with, and when half your face is covered up, there's 50 percent less of it to recognize. Science and technology are looking at this as a challenge, however, and are actively working to improve recognition techniques for even masked faces. Another CNET article reveals that several different data-gathering firms have been harvesting the thousands of publicly available masked selfies on Instagram and using these to help test facial recognition algorithms by seeing whether they can properly label images with or without face coverings.

While they realize that many social media users (not to mention, anti-mask activists like a certain Costco shopper) are bound to be upset by their images being put to such use, all of the images harvested have been in what is considered to be the public domain. As Wafaa Arbash, CEO of AI startup Workaround, points out, anyone who wishes to be excluded can simply make their social media accounts private. Not to mention, there is no entity, governmental nor private, that is forcing you to take selfies. Should you choose to stop publishing your mug (masked or unmasked), social media will somehow survive the loss.