FOSS Spotlight: PAM Face Authentication

PAM Face Authentication
PAM Face Authentication

PAM Face Authentication (pam-face-authentication) is a pluggable authentication module designed for facial authentication. The module works much like the Android Face Authentication feature but can be used on Ubuntu 12.04 or other distros if you choose to compile from source.

The project maintainer is currently looking for more contributors as they have a lot of work planned including:

  • Large parts should be rewritten using the C++ bindings of OpenCV
  • The face authentication should be abortable by pressing ESC upon login
  • Enabling/disabling should be possible using one-click buttons
  • Recognition might be improvable under bad light conditions
  • The pre-processing of images before recognition should be improved in order to attain higher accuracy.
  • The Qt-GUI can be heavily improved. Currently it has not a really professional look 😉
  • Implement tracking and registration with minimal user supervision
  • Create a dataset to evaluate the performance of authentication methods


PAM Face Authentication can be found at:


I really think this open source project has great potential and look forward to testing it more when support in the PPA lands for Ubuntu 12.10.  Additionally I would like to point out that there is now an app for Live Wallpapers on Ubuntu which means we have two different features of Android that have landed in Ubuntu albeit unofficially.



  1. Gonzalo Porcel Quero says

    How do you plan to make sure that the authentication method cannot be easily defeated by just showing the webcam a picture of the person whose login you are trying to gain?

    In other words, how do you make sure that it is a live human being that is doing the authentication and not just a picture of said person?

    • says

      You don’t much like the feature in Android its clear that Face Authentication is not the most secure option yet. I think there is much room for improvement in the technology but this is still a cool project.

      • says

        Sadly cool and usable are not as overlapping sets of things as we would all hope they would be. We’d all have jetpacks if they were. Ping me when webcams have the pixel density and superspectral sensitivity to do an iris or cornea fingerprinting with infrared or ultraviolet illumination.

        Though there is a secondary use for this. You know your Halloween costume is good, when the face recognition auth fails for you.


        • says

          Google considers it usable enough that they implemented it in production on all phones and tablets running ICS or better. Your points are valid though and I’m sure webcams with that technology are no too far into the future.

          In fact I see a future where you authenticate into “Areas” and then NFC tags communicate authentication to individual devices. That would be cool.

          • says

            all just stopgap measures…until the Google neural implant. I look forward to getting my “Google inside” QR tattoo on the back of my neck.