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Fool Facial Recognition Technology

Fool Facial Recognition Technology

by Bill Rounds Esq. on May 19, 2010

Reading time: 4 – 6 minutes

Visual Recognition technology is becoming very powerful and easily has the capacity to perform facial recognition of an entire crowd. They can probably see you reading the How To Vanish book from space so scanning a crowd is an easy feat.  Facial biometrics can link the faces in an otherwise anonymous crowd with the vast transactional databases that are maintained on almost everyone. Your physical presence in a particular location, detected by face recognition technology, would be yet another data point in the vast digital dossier on you. Such visual recognition can pose serious threats if misused to anyone who wants to participate in the political process, peaceably assemble, participate in religious observance or in many other aspects of life. So I thought you might want to know how to fool facial recognition technology.

Visual Recognition Technology

The fact that facial biometric technology exists is not the problem. It is the use of technology, such as visual recognition, that can have serious implications. Use of face recognition technology is not new. It’s use was first made public several years ago when it was used to scan the crowd of the Super Bowl in Tampa Florida. At that time face recognition was not very good and returned a lot of false positives, identifying individuals as someone they weren’t, as well as missing other people the system was designed to detect. Such a deployment of visual recognition in its unrefined state may have caused the public to regard the technology as harmless. Since that first deployment, the technology has improved and is now used for airport security and in other places where there are a lot of people to spy on and very little time.

Fool Facial Recognition Technology

Adam Harvey undertook a very interesting project as part of his doctoral thesis at NYU to find ways to fool facial recognition. Makeup was applied to faces in these patterns to obscure facial features. The researcher relied on the algorithms that the software used to recognize faces. Knowing the algorithm allowed him to manipulate and distort the most important reference points to avoid detection by the facial biometrics.

Limitations of Facial Recognition

Keep in mind that this is the first study of its kind so there are some limitations in what is now known. For example, the software does not even recognize that a face is present at all when using these patterns. The study does not address whether there are ways to allow the software to recognize a face without being able to determine which face it is. The contrast that must be used is also not reported. Do the patterns require the use of black and white makeup, or can we use the colors of our favorite sports teams? Are more subtle shades useful at avoiding detection that might not draw as much attention as a face painted like Gene Simmons? Hopefully others will follow up and find the answers to these questions.

Kiss Facial Recognition Technology

Implementing Visual Recognition Disruption

For now, if you follow the patterns as presented, it is likely that your face will not even be recognized by facial recognition software. I would not recommend testing new techniques or even using proven techniques in any heavily regulated areas, such as airports. Even Gene Simmons might have difficulty getting through airport security with face paint. But who is to keep you out of the Superbowl with Chargers blue and gold displayed proudly? Even if the Chargers aren’t playing.

Conclusion

Visual recognition technology is advancing quickly and becoming a very powerful tool to monitor a higher number of people, more often, at a lower cost. Keep your facial biometrics to yourself and stay out of the transactional databases, avoid surveillance cameras more effectively, and keep the paparazzi guessing.  If there have been any interferences with your constitutional rights due to the use of facial recognition technology, you will want to talk to a lawyer.

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5 comments

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bill Rounds, Esq. is a California attorney. He holds a degree in Accounting from the University of Utah and a law degree from California Western School of Law. He practices civil litigation, domestic and foreign business entity formation and transactions, criminal defense and privacy law. He is a strong advocate of personal and financial freedom and civil liberties. This is merely one article of 123 by .
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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Justen Robertson December 1, 2010 at 9:08 am

Who’d have thought woad would turn out to have a practical application in fighting the British of our day. After some poking around it looks like these guys sell a great, long-lasting body paint that may be useful in this endeavor: http://temptu.com. Bonus points if you have Scottish heritage and can pass this off as observing cultural tradition (I can!).

2 thurman April 25, 2011 at 11:35 pm

Simply ‘Dazzle camouflage’. Look up on Wikipedia. Same idea. Info, want it or not! Many sailors from the Great War refused to go on WW II ships unless they were painted in Dazzle. Most Dazzle ships in WW II survived at an outstanding rate compared to ordinary paint jobs.
If it could fool subs and dive bombers, why not Big Brothers eye on the street.

3 Joe McPlumber September 22, 2011 at 10:38 am

I’m still creeped out because i let Picasa run through my photo collection and it recognized me as a teenager with big bug sunglasses AND it picked me out as a toddler. The latter in tiny, pixelated images with other people in them.

If a Google product is that good then i have to wonder what the government has.

Perhaps even scarier are the false matches, e.g. Picasa persistently tried to identify my wife’s niece as my wife. What chance do you have in court if “the computer says” that it saw you do it? I’ve encountered a lot of government computers in my time and according to the people who serve them they are never, ever, wrong.

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