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How it works and why it created SearchFace – a service for searching VKontakte users by photo

What is SearchFace?

In February 2016, the company of start-ups NtechLab launched FindFace service: it allowed searching VKontakte users from a random photo, including on the street. Within a few months, the service audience exceeded a million people. In 2017, developers began to cooperate with the Moscow authorities, and in 2018 they removed the project from public access in order to work with the government and business.

Three years later, anonymous developers launched an analogue of FindFace – SearchFace: the neural network service also finds VKontakte user profiles from images. Unlike its predecessor, the project is completely free and does not require a subscription.In a conversation , the authors explained that they are not pursuing goals to earn and just want to explore the possibilities of the algorithm.. Nor would they want to disclose their names to continue to work anonymously.

Instructions for SearchFace:

  • Open the site and upload a photo in a single field;
  • When the search is completed, the service will show a list of pages in “VKontakte” with a person in the photo or with “similar” users;
  • Each page shows an index of coincidence: as a rule, “complete coincidence” is more than 0.67;
  • To repeat the search, you need to refresh the page and upload a new snapshot.

How SearchFace Works

According to the authors of the service, SearchFace works on the basis of a handwritten neural network, which is based on the base of 500 million faces of VKontakte users. The plans – to write an article on the operation of the algorithm and topology.They noted that they did not use N-Tech.Lab and did not contact the authors of FindFace..

Habra readers tests showed that SearchFace finds pages on the social network with high accuracy and copes with photos of the face, even if they are made in profile and not full face, as well as “clutter” on the face like glasses, masks on eyes or covered mouth.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The goal was to test the recognition algorithm on the basis of a large number of “interfering” records. Emphasis was placed on a photo of poor quality, with a partially closed face, for example, sunglasses, photos from unusual angles and with complex facial expressions.[/perfectpullquote]
one of the developers of SearchFace

Moreover, the  check showed that SearchFace finds photos of the original user even on the pages of other users who posted pictures with him on VKontakte. The service takes into account not only the photo where one person is depicted, but also pictures taken from afar or with the participation of several people, for example, relatives or friends.

Why use SearchFace

If the FindFace developers have positioned their project as a “service for dating,” the authors of SearchFace stated that the main goal is “entertainment”. “We have no plans yet, and the service itself was not in the plans – while we are testing the accuracy,” added one of the authors.

Initially, it became known about SearchFace on “Dveče” and in the eponymous Telegram-chat. As in 2016, when FindFace appeared , imageboard users began to test the service on Russian porn actresses and webcam models. Some of them found profiles of actresses in VKontakte: they shared links in threads , and also wrote to girls and their relatives, applying frames from erotic commercials.

SearchFace developers have noted that they have not yet received complaints from users. In case there are a lot of requests, they are ready to add an option to delete the VKontakte profile from the search results of the service.

When asked whether the developers, as the creators of FindFace, are ready to cooperate with the state, they answered: “It’s too early to talk about it, we haven’t thought so far yet.”


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