Mapped: The State of Facial Recognition Around the World

This post is by Iman Ghosh from Visual Capitalist

View the full-size version of this infographic.

Facial Recognition World Map-1200px

Mapping The State of Facial Recognition Around the World

View the high resolution version of this infographic by clicking here.

From public CCTV cameras to biometric identification systems in airports, facial recognition technology is now common in a growing number of places around the world.

In its most benign form, facial recognition technology is a convenient way to unlock your smartphone. At the state level though, facial recognition is a key component of mass surveillance, and it already touches half the global population on a regular basis.

Today’s visualizations from SurfShark classify 194 countries and regions based on the extent of surveillance.

Facial Recognition Status Total Countries
In Use 98
Approved, but not implemented 12
Considering technology 13
No evidence of use 68
Banned 3

Click here to explore the full research methodology.

Let’s dive into the ways facial recognition technology is used across every region.

North America, Central America, and Caribbean

In the U.S., a 2016 study showed that already half of American adults were captured in some kind of facial recognition network. More recently, the Department of Homeland Security unveiled its “Biometric Exit” plan, which aims to use facial recognition technology on nearly all air travel passengers by 2023, to identify compliance with visa status.

Facial Recognition North America Map

Perhaps surprisingly, 59% of Americans are actually in favor of implementing facial recognition technology, considering it acceptable for use in law enforcement according to a Pew Research survey. Yet, some cities such as San Francisco have pushed to ban surveillance, citing a stand against its potential abuse by the government.

Facial recognition technology can potentially come in handy after a natural disaster. After Hurricane Dorian hit in late summer of 2019, the Bahamas launched a blockchain-based missing persons database “FindMeBahamas” to identify thousands of displaced people.

South America

The majority of facial recognition technology in South America is aimed at cracking down on crime. In fact, it worked in Brazil to capture Interpol’s second-most wanted criminal.

Facial Recognition South America Map

Home to over 209 million, Brazil soon plans to create a biometric database of its citizens. However, some are nervous that this could also serve as a means to prevent dissent against the current political order.


Belgium and Luxembourg are two of only three governments in the world to officially oppose the use of facial recognition technology.

Facial Recognition Europe Map

Further, 80% of Europeans are not keen on sharing facial data with authorities. Despite such negative sentiment, it’s still in use across 26 European countries to date.

The EU has been a haven for unlawful biometric experimentation and surveillance.

—European Digital Rights (EDRi)

In Russia, authorities have relied on facial recognition technology to check for breaches of quarantine rules by potential COVID-19 carriers. In Moscow alone, there are reportedly over 100,000 facial recognition enabled cameras in operation.

Middle East and Central Asia

Facial recognition technology is widespread in this region, notably for military purposes.

Facial Recognition Middle East and Central Asia Map

In Turkey, 30 domestically-developed kamikaze drones will use AI and facial recognition for border security. Similarly, Israel has a close eye on Palestinian citizens across 27 West Bank checkpoints.

In other parts of the region, police in the UAE have purchased discreet smart glasses that can be used to scan crowds, where positive matches show up on an embedded lens display. Over in Kazakhstan, facial recognition technology could replace public transportation passes entirely.

East Asia and Oceania

In the COVID-19 battle, contact tracing through biometric identification became a common tool to slow the infection rates in countries such as China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore. In some instances, this included the use of facial recognition technology to monitor temperatures as well as spot those without a mask.

Facial Recognition East Asia Oceania Map

That said, questions remain about whether the pandemic panopticon will stop there.

China is often cited as a notorious use case of mass surveillance, and the country has the highest ratio of CCTV cameras to citizens in the world—one for every 12 people. By 2023, China will be the single biggest player in the global facial recognition market. And it’s not just implementing the technology at home–it’s exporting too.


While the African continent currently has the lowest concentration of facial recognition technology in use, this deficit may not last for long.

Facial Recognition World Map

Several African countries, such as Kenya and Uganda, have received telecommunications and surveillance financing and infrastructure from Chinese companies—Huawei in particular. While the company claims this has enabled regional crime rates to plummet, some activists are wary of the partnership.

Whether you approach facial recognition technology from public and national security lens or from an individual liberty perspective, it’s clear that this kind of surveillance is here to stay.

Subscribe to Visual Capitalist

Thank you!
Given email address is already subscribed, thank you!
Please provide a valid email address.
Please complete the CAPTCHA.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later.

The post Mapped: The State of Facial Recognition Around the World appeared first on Visual Capitalist.

Max Levchin Wants to School Lawmakers on Encryption

Bloomberg News

PayPal Inc. co-founder Max Levchin wants to make sure lawmakers know “what the hell they’re talking about” when they talk about  encryption.

In the wake of terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., politicians in Washington and Europe are raising the issue of government access to encrypted data. Mr. Levchin worries that the political debate surrounding encryption overlooks that it is a form of math and that the basic principles behind encryption are generally available.

“My hope is that at the very least, people debating it, from the staffers to the congresspeople, understand how it works,” Mr. Levchin said. “I have a sneaking suspicion in a lot of cases they do not.”

The encryption fight has fanned the flames of an ongoing debate between Silicon Valley and lawmakers about the balance of privacy and national security. Many politicians, including a large swath of the 2016 presidential candidates, argue Continue reading Max Levchin Wants to School Lawmakers on Encryption

Thoughts on physical security – in the aftermath of Paris attacks

1/ As an investor in Evolv Technology, a company that aims to protect physical spaces against threats, I am reading articles on Paris attacks carefully. There is a lot to digest. How coordinated these attacks were, how sudden, how they targeted the youth, and how some attack sites were able to contain the damage a lot more than some others.

2/ It is an unfortunate reality that we are increasingly living in a world threatened by those who seek to hurt innocent people en masse. This is our generation’s struggle and we must overcome, and beat this evil.

3/ Public spaces globally are at risk. Especially spaces that weren’t considered as such. For eg sports events: Boston marathon, Paris Stadium etc. These are soft targets, usually less secure. And they attract lots of people, crowds that are harder to screen, harder to control, and harder to evacuate in case of Continue reading Thoughts on physical security – in the aftermath of Paris attacks

Andreessen Backs OkCupid Founders’ Security Firm

Before Max Krohn, the OkCupid cofounder, showed millennials how to find a quick date, he had a far-less-romantic interest in cryptography. But he couldn’t see a way to make a living at it.

“Security startups never really did so well,” said Krohn, who studied computer science at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “There was not an example of a runaway success.”

Things look different after a series of major data breaches and leaks from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Wednesday, the venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz said it led a $10.8 million investment in Keybase, a security startup founded by Krohn and a former OkCupid colleague that seeks to make encryption easier to use.

It’s Keybase’s first outside investment, and the latest sign of growing investor interest in cybersecurity.

On Monday, Google Capital , the search giant’s growth-equity fund, made its first cybersecurity investment, leading Continue reading Andreessen Backs OkCupid Founders’ Security Firm