Author: Hanzade Durmusoglu
From: Istanbul, Turkey
photo by BBC
Especially during quarantine, everyone and their mother started using TikTok and some concerns are likely floating around as they do for every other social media outlet. Have you ever wondered how people “blow up” on the app or to what extent your data is being collected? Here is the answer to both: facial recognition and beauty algorithm.
What is Facial Recognition?
A facial recognition system is a technology capable of identifying or verifying a person from a digital image or a video frame from a video source, Wikipedia states. It is typically used as access control in security systems and can be compared to other biometrics such as fingerprint or iris recognition systems. Although its accuracy is lower than iris or fingerprint recognition systems, it is widely used due to its contactless and non-invasive process and it is especially popular in mobile phone security.
Is Facial Recognition Legal?
This question might arise after reading the previous paragraph and make you think “Wow, this sounds serious, is this legal?” The answer is yes and no. Facial recognition has been around for a considerable amount of time but its efficiency has increased drastically the past two years. While some states like California and Washington have imposed law enforcement and banned its usage in certain areas, most apps with camera access use facial recognition and will continue to use it unless a worldwide law is issued. Since it’s an algorithm that can be used in so many areas of life, the legality of facial recognition is unclear as it continues to be developed and to pose new threats.
Facial Recognition vs. Facial Definition: What’s the Difference?
To put it as simple as possible, facial definition is the one that is able to say “Oh, this is a face!” Meanwhile facial recognition says “He’s Jared, 19 and lives on the same street as you.” Apps like Snapchat and Instagram use facial definition to put those cute filters on your face accurately but TikTok, on the other hand, is reported to be using facial recognition for no apparent reason, right? Actually, TikTok uses an enhanced facial recognition algorithm to grade their users’ face: the beauty algorithm.
Tiktok Rates Videos? With a Beauty Algorithm? How?
TikTok rates videos for potential success based on the attractiveness of those in it. An algorithm similar to the one that TikTok is thought to be using is called “SCUT-FBP5500” and is available on the Internet with an article and its datasets. The dataset has a total of 5500 frontal faces consisting of male/female Asian/Caucasian properties and labels such as facial landmarks, beauty scores in 5 scales and a beauty score distribution. As it was mentioned before, the algorithm only calculates Asian and Caucasian faces, therefore dismissing other races. It is important to note that TikTok most probably does not use SCUT-FBP5500 but has developed a very similar one that works the same way. So if you’ve ever wondered why you only saw Asians and Caucasians on your for you page, you might want to check the algorithm out.
It’s not clear how strongly the beauty algorithm affects video popularity since the machine learning process looks at other parameters such as watch time, views, likes in a short amount of time which later determines if a video will “blow up” or not.
Although TikTok users value personality in the content they consume, as long as videos of good-looking people continue to gain attention solely for the reason of being eye-candy, TikTok will go on to recognise them as high-quality content.
Does this mean that you need to be good-looking in order to gain a following on TikTok? No. Just like every other social media app, the number of likes, views and comments you get in a short amount of time is a big factor on whether your content will be successful or not.
If you are still interested in various “beauty” algorithms and TikTok’s system in particular, I suggest you check out these amazing sources below:
If you would like to learn how TikTok would rate your face with a similar algorithm, you can visit this site called tiktokbeautiful.com, made by the TikTok user benthamite. I hope I was able to clear some questions!
Author: Hanzade Durmusoglu
QOVES Studio. (2020, June 26). How the Tiktok Algorithm Rates Your Face⎢Beauty Culture Ep. 6.
Hashem Al-Ghaili. (2019, July 23). How does Facial Recognition Work?. https://youtu.be/agGEDdj05U0
Benthamite. (2020, June 15). TikTok’s beauty algorithm. https://www.tiktok.com/@benthamite/video/6838386972445248773?lang=en
(last edited on 2020, September 13, at 11.45 UTC). Facial recognition system. Retrieved 2020, September 12 from,
HCIILAB. (2019, July 16). HCIILAB/SCUT-FB5500-Database-Release.
Lang, Lingyu. Lin, Luojun. Jin, Lianwen. Xie, Duorui. Li, Mengru. (2018, January 18). SCUT-FBP5500‡ : A Diverse Benchmark Dataset for Multi-Paradigm Facial Beauty Prediction.