Using Facial Recognition to Detect Unfaithful Partners

Days are numbered for cheaters looking to hookup online

Mike Raab
Mike Raab
Aug 21 · 3 min read
vchal/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Anyone who has been single and looking to date over the past 5 years is likely all too familiar with the prevalence of dating apps and “online” dating. In fact, online dating is now the most common way for those in relationships to meet each other, according to a 2019 Stanford study.

https://web.stanford.edu/~mrosenfe/Rosenfeld_et_al_Disintermediating_Friends.pdf

For many relationships that begin online, there’s a point where partners delete or get rid of their dating app profiles. This may be on their own terms and timeline, or a discussion that each party is ready to become exclusive.

However, it’s not uncommon to hear about someone in a relationship finding out that their significant other still has a dating profile months or years into their supposedly exclusive relationship. Reddit’s Relationship Advice subreddit is full of users who have found their romantic partners of months or even years still have an active dating app profile.

Today, these transgressions are discovered primarily through serendipity — a friend or acquaintance of the victim notifies them that they recognized their supposed faithful partner on a dating app. But with the quickly improving field of computer vision and facial recognition — will the luck of serendipity give way to a paid service for lovers to monitor if their significant other has active dating profiles?

It’s not difficult to imagine. The progression of machine learning technology has enabled tech companies like Facebook (including “Instagram from Facebook (TM),” Amazon, Apple, and Google to identify individuals from a limited set of photographs. What if this technology was used to flag potential cheating partners on a vast array of dating sites?

Imagine a service — let’s hypothetically call it “No Scrubs” — where you can submit either the publicly available social media profiles of your significant other, or a certain number of photos of them to train deep learning models to recognize other photos of them. For a monthly fee, this service monitors dating apps and sites — from Tinder, to Farmers Only, and AshleyMadison (a dating site for hopeful adulterers). If any photos of your partner surface, the service sends you a discreet email with the photos and profile tagged.

Is this an invasion of privacy, or a moral insurance policy? Does it breach the trust necessary to build a lifelong relationship, or does it prevent the suffering of trusting partners? Of course, most individuals who aren’t terrible people don’t expect or assume that their significant other may be cheating on them. But perhaps the peace of mind to know that they aren’t (at least online) is worth subscribing to such a service.

A quick search hasn’t revealed any companies currently offering dating app monitoring using facial recognition, but it is undoubtedly on the horizon. The biggest hurdle, I imagine, is gaining access to every dating profile across these apps and sites by having enough profiles that are in the age and location range of every possible customer, and aren’t flagged for unusual activity. One thing is for sure — it’s unlikely that the dating apps themselves would willingly contribute data or profiles to this service. Their motivation is to have as many users (free or paying) on their platform at any one time, and the threat of being known as an app where cheaters get busted is dangerous to their business.

That said, it’s inevitable that this product is eventually offered, and likely pretty reliable. At the same time, once the word gets out that unfaithful partners are getting busted by my hypothetical “No Scrubs” service, it won’t automatically make them better people and partners — it will likely just drive them back to the old-fashioned ways of cheating. Either way — those looking for additional love online likely don’t have much longer to do so.

The Raabit Hole

Musings on life, entertainment, and technology. Note: opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the author in the future.

Mike Raab

Written by

Mike Raab

I write about media, tech, and life. Currently VC @ Sinai Ventures in SF. Formerly digital TV strategy @ 21st Century Fox in LA. TheRaabitHole.com

The Raabit Hole

Musings on life, entertainment, and technology. Note: opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the author in the future.

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