In recent times, wide deployment of automatic face recognition systems has been accompanied by substantial gains in algorithm performance. However, benchmarking tests designed to evaluate these systems do not account for the errors of human operators, who are often an integral part of face recognition solutions in forensic and security settings. This causes a mismatch between evaluation tests and operational accuracy. Experiment 1 measures target detection accuracy in algorithm-generated 'candidate lists' selected from a large database of passport images. Experiment 2 then compares performance of student participants to trained passport officers-who use the system in their daily work-and found equivalent performance in these groups. Encouragingly, a group of highly trained and experienced "facial examiners" outperformed these groups by 20 percentage points. Mere practise does not attenuate these limits, but superior performance of trained examiners suggests that recruitment and selection of human operators, in combination with effective training and mentorship, can improve the operational accuracy of face recognition systems.
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