Facebook facial recognition could unlock clues in search for missing persons
By Housnia Shams
Some of the missing persons who now have profiles featured in the world-first campaign. (Supplied: Invisible Friends)
Sending a Facebook friend request to a missing person seems strange, but it may be the key to finding them.
Sevak Simonian was 21 when he was reported missing in the Kanangara Boyd National Park near Oberon in New South Wales in October 2014.
He is now one of the 10 missing person profiles featured in a world-first campaign which will use Facebook’s powerful new facial recognition technology to find people
Launched by the Missing Persons Advocacy Network (MPAN), the Invisible Friends campaign calls for Facebook users around the world to befriend the profiles of missing persons.
The initiative will use Facebook’s auto-tagging technology to scan the background of each photo and video posted by friends of the profile.
Facebook’s algorithm will then automatically tag the profile and send a notification to the MPAN if the missing person is identified in an image.
The CEO and founder of MPAN, Loren O’Keeffe, said the technology is effective.
Missing Belrose man Sevak Simonian has not been seen for a week after setting out for a bushwalk on October 20, 2014. (Supplied)
“This is just the high-tech version of a missing person’s poster and it’s far more effective than printing out hundreds [of posters] and sticking them around telegraph poles,” she said.
“If we do get a notification, we will be in touch with families, police, whoever it concerns.”
The profiles of nine missing Australians and one Briton missing in Africa will be used to pilot the program.
“We’ve worked with 10 families who initiated contact with us in regard to this campaign and we’ve set up profiles of their long-term missing loved ones and we are asking the public to friend them so that their network is expanded,” she said.
Mr Simonian’s brother Sasoon is hopeful.
“There was a 20-day air and land search that involved the SES, RFS, the police and they didn’t find anything through that search,” Sasoon Simonian said.
“Since then, we haven’t had a single clue as to what may have happened to him.”
MPAN said it is optimistic as Facebook’s facial recognition technology is 98 per cent accurate.
“To put that in perspective, the FBI’s version of the same sort of technology is only 85 per cent accurate,” Ms O’Keeffe said.
“By searching through billions of posts per week, we’re not only raising awareness for the devastated families of these missing people, but also hope to put an end to their ambiguous loss, the most stressful type of grief.”
Sasoon Simonian is hoping the public will play their part.
“Even if it brings one person home, I think this will all be worth it,” he said.
Facebook users can go on www.invisiblefriends.com.au for more information.