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Troubleshoot familiar face detection

If your camera uses familiar face detection and isn’t working correctly, for example if faces are being misidentified, faces are being assigned to the wrong person or faces are missing, use this article to troubleshoot.

Know the basics

  • You need a Nest Aware subscription to use Familiar face detection (not available on cameras in Illinois).
  • You need a camera that supports Familiar face detection.
  • Once you turn on familiar face detection, it works like other motion detection. So when your camera sees a face, the activity is marked in your camera’s video history. Make sure familiar face detection has been turned on for each camera you want to use it on.
  • You can view familiar face detection events in the Nest app’s Sightline and event history and the Google Home app’s Feed, Home History, and Video History.
  • If your camera has detected an unfamiliar face, the Home app or Nest app will ask whether it’s someone you know. If you select Yes, the person’s face data is saved to your familiar face library to help your camera recognize the face as someone you know. Please check your local privacy laws, and get the person’s permission first as required. 
  • If your camera has detected a familiar face, the event in your camera’s video history will let you know who’s been spotted.
  • Your camera might have trouble recognizing faces if the person’s face is obstructed in some way, for instance if they are wearing a hat or face mask.

Event detection accuracy

Cameras and doorbells use machine learning to ensure notifications are as accurate as possible, but the technology isn’t always perfect. Your camera is more likely to accurately detect objects that are larger, nearby, and within clear view of the camera. And your camera or doorbell may misidentify things like:

  • Confuse a picture with a real event. For example, a picture of a dog on a t-shirt might trigger an “Activity or animal” event.
  • A person could be misidentified as an animal in some situations, like if they’re crawling on the ground, or bent over to do housework.
  • Close relatives can be misidentified.
  • Other objects, such as a shadow or bush, may be misidentified by event detection.
Note: In some cases, your camera or doorbell may correctly identify an object that’s hard for you to find in the recording. This can happen if the object was far away, hard to see in the scene, or only visible for a short time.

Your camera identified someone incorrectly

If your camera identified someone incorrectly, you should fix it as soon as possible. This will reduce the chance of that person being misidentified again.

Home app

  1. On the home screen, tap Settings Settings gear and then Nest Aware and then Familiar face detection.
  2. Tap a face to add or change the name.

Nest app

  1. On the app home screen, tap Settings Nest settings icon.
  2. Tap Familiar faces.
  3. Tap the face profile you want to review.
  4. You’ll see a grid of snapshots. Tap any incorrect ones to highlight them. For iOS customers, tap Select, then tap any incorrect ones.
  5. Tap Delete nest cam trash clip  to remove those snapshots.

Your camera created a new profile for a known familiar face

Sometimes your camera may misidentify a familiar face as a new face and create another profile of the same person. To fix this, merge the profiles.

Home app

  1. On the home screen, tap  Settings Settings gear and then Nest Aware and then Familiar face detection.
  2. Start edit mode (two different ways):
    • Tap Edit in the top right corner of the screen, then select the faces you want to merge.
    • Long press a face on the screen to select the first face in edit mode. Then, tap the other face you want to merge. Both faces will be selected.
  3. Tap Merge  in the top right corner of the screen.

Nest app

  1.  Tap Settings Nest settings icon on the app home screen.
  2. Tap Familiar faces.
  3. Tap and hold on the person’s picture you want to combine. You’ll see a checkbox to confirm your selection. For iOS customers, tap Select.
  4. Tap the duplicated picture that you want to combine. If there are multiple duplicate profiles, you can select them as well.
  5. Tap the Merge icon .

Familiar faces were deleted

If your familiar faces library is missing, your Nest Aware subscription may have expired or you turned familiar faces off for all your cameras. Check the status of your subscription and make sure it's active.

Adjust your camera's view

Make sure your camera is placed where it can get a clear shot of the area you want to monitor. This will help your camera tell the difference between faces:

  • Place your camera near head level. Roughly 6-8 ft above ground. This way the camera can see someone’s face even if they’re wearing a hat. 
  • Position your camera so it can see faces easily. Familiar faces works best when the subject is directly approaching the camera. 
    • Place the camera where people would naturally walk towards it, such as facing a path or down a driveway. 
    • For best results, the camera should be placed within 10ft of where people will walk towards it.
  • Check the lighting around your camera. Check your camera’s view at different times during the day to make sure that your camera can see things clearly without glare from the sun or other light sources or in low light conditions.
  • Review your familiar faces library on a regular basis during the first few weeks, especially after you add a new person. Promptly fix any face identification mistakes.

If you’re getting alerts for people who aren’t there, try pointing your camera away from or using Activity Zones to exclude the following:

  • Televisions. Actors’ faces in TV shows and movies might get picked up by your camera and trigger unfamiliar face alerts.
  • Mirrors. When your camera picks up someone’s reflection, there’s a chance it might send a notification about multiple people.

Notifications aren't working

Important: Before you change notification settings it’s important to understand how they work. Here’s a few key points. 

  • Nest cameras can alert you when they detect activity, but they won’t spam you with repeat notifications for the same activity over a short period of time.
  • Our cameras use advanced algorithms that do their best to send you as few notifications as possible, while still making them relevant.
  • Your camera won’t send additional notifications if the same person comes into view repeatedly over a short period of time, or stays within view for a while. 
  • If your camera spots a familiar face and an unfamiliar face at the same time, it will send an alert about the unfamiliar face.
  • You might get different alerts for the same person if you have more than one camera and their settings are different.
  • When your camera spots a familiar face, it will send a familiar face alert that includes the name (if any) you assigned to the person.
  • When your camera spots an unfamiliar face, it will send an unfamiliar face alert.
  • If your camera’s not sure whether it recognizes a face, it will send a person alert instead of a familiar face alert.

For detailed instructions on changing camera notification settings, go to the following article:

Camera alerts and how to change settings

Can't change settings or the face library

If you can’t manage your camera’s familiar face detection settings or your home’s familiar face library, it could be caused by the following:

  • Your home is in an area where familiar face detection feature isn’t available.1
  • You’ve entered your date of birth into your Google account and are under the age of 13 in the US (or the applicable age in your country).
If you incorrectly entered your date of birth into your Google Account, you learn how to verify your age and re-enable your Google Account in the Google Accounts help center.


(1) Nest’s familiar face detection feature is not available on Nest cameras used in Illinois. Certain state legislation may affect Illinois customers’ use of the feature, so we’ve disabled it as a precaution. If the home where you’re using your camera is in Illinois, you shouldn’t be able to turn on familiar face detection in the Nest app.

Use familiar face detection in compliance with the law. Depending on where you live, you might need to get consent to have your camera help identify people visiting your home.

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