Fashion to thwart Facebook face recognition?

Creepy T-shirts designed to baffle Facebook facial-recognition software (Naked Security)

Image source: REALFACE web site

The garments – dubbed the “REALFACE Glamoflage” T-shirts – were designed by Simone C. Niquille as part of her* master’s thesis in graphic design at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam.

The shirts are custom-printed and sell for around $65.

The prints feature distorted faces of celebrity impersonators – Barack Obama, Michael Jackson and others – with the aim of creating an easy way to befuddle Facebook’s pattern recognition algorithms…

I’m always fascinated by the responses of artists and designers to facial recognition technology.

CV Dazzle is my favorite because it is visually interesting; it really works as fashion and as an effective face rec counter-measure; and the approach stands a chance of keeping up as facial recognition technology continues to improve in surveillance applications.

REALFACE has simplicity and a more mainstream fashion statement going for it. In some percentage of attempts, it probably attracts the attention of the face-finding algorithms that are a part of automated facial recognition programs.

Full disclosure: I’ve never had a Facebook account so I’m making some assumptions about how it works.

Rather than a frontal attack on the face algorithm itself, it may be that best way to cause Facebook’s face recognition trouble is by undermining the quality of the data it relies upon. Facebook relies upon users telling the software who is who, then applying facial recognition to prompt users to tag new photos. Users who wish to thwart Facebook’s facial recognition might recognize that “garbage in; garbage out,” depending on your point of view, is either a bug or a feature.

For other posts on biometrics and art click here.

Can facial recognition assist art historians?

Art research effort aided by face recognition (BBC)

The software under development by Prof Rudolph, engineer Amit Roy-Chowdhury and art historian Jeanette Kohl will try to put a name to these forgotten likenesses by grabbing data about defining elements of faces from portraits and comparing them to known depictions.

Early work on the project established that key parameters for facial recognition in portraiture include the position of the corners of the eyes and mouth, the width between the eyes, and the width of the mouth. Mapping these characteristics using a 27-point scheme captures sufficient information to make identifications, said the researchers.

The application of facial recognition technologies to the challenges of art history is a fascinating topic. We once had a call from a collector who believed he had discovered a third existing photograph of Henry David Thoreau and wanted our help with the verification.

The BBC article, however, discusses the application of facial recognition technology to artifacts created before the invention of photography, which presents a whole different set of challenges.

Art historians interested in applying software to facial analysis might be wise to enroll death masks (also mentioned in the article, or life masks) as database images since they are as nearly as possible an actual recording of a person’s face. Those could then be compared to painted images purportedly of the same person. Using this technique, art historians would quickly get an idea of how “accurate” portraitists (in general, or individually) were at painting images to the mathematical specificity that underlies facial recognition algorithms.

They would probably learn a lot from this basic exercise. How accurate did portraits tend to be? Were they supposed to be scientifically accurate? Or, were they more like the airbrushed and Photoshopped images that grace the covers of magazines today? Were certain portraitists consistently more accurate than others. Once these questions are well understood, analysis of painted or carved images for identification purposes might come within reach even where no contemporary physical impression of the face exists.

Czech Republic: ID hack, performance art, social commentary

How 12 Men Morphed Identities and Still Voted, Bought Guns, and Got Married (Motherboard)


Basically, twelve members of the collective swapped identities, snagging themselves digitally-altered ID cards that featured blended images of their portrait and another person’s. Make Money Not Art explains further: “With the same haircut, twelve members of Ztohoven took a portrait pictures and using the Morphing software they merged every two faces into one. They applied for new IDs with these photos, but each of them used the name of his alter-ego.”

For six months, they then lived under each others’ identities, purchasing guns, voting, and even getting married. They documented the entire project, which, in a nod to Kafka’s identity-thieved Josef, they called Citizen K.

Sounds like an advertisement for facial recognition audits of ID card applications.

Official web page for “Citizen K.” (English)

What happens when you run satellite images through a face recognition engine?

It has been a long time since we’ve had a biometrics in art post…

These Artists Are Mapping the Earth … With Facial Recognition Software (The Atlantic)  

Have you ever looked up into the sky and seen a cloud that vaguely resembles your mom? Or gazed at the twisted trunk of a tree, only to see an old man staring back at you? Then you have experienced pareidolia, the human mind’s tendency to read significance into random stimuli. You have learned what children and poets have long held true: that anything — any place — can be a canvas for a human face.

Source: Cropping ours.

Also: check out the artists’ site: There are a lot more images there.

The way we perceive our environment is a complex procedure. By the help of our vision we are able to recognize friends within a huge crowd, approximate the speed of an oncoming car or simply admire a painting. One of human’s most characteristic features is our desire to detect patterns. We use this ability to penetrate into the detailed secrets of nature. However we also tend to use this ability to enrich our imagination. Hence we recognize meaningful shapes in clouds or detect a great bear upon astrological observations.

Good face rec article at the BBC

Can disguises fool surveillance technology? (BBC)

putting a scarf over the mouth and nose, or simply wearing dark glasses could fool the system. However, this is beginning to change, says Shengcai Liao, an assistant professor at the Center for Biometrics and Security Research in Beijing, China. He says new techniques are being developed that can use information from the nose or mouth alone if the eyes are occluded, or from the eyes and eyebrows if a scarf is covering the lower part of the face. “It’s not possible to recognize a fully occluded face, but we can currently recognize faces with 30% or even 50% occlusion,” he said. “We have even had success performing recognition from a mouth alone – something that it would be very difficult for a human to do.”

But what about other countermeasures, such as those used by McAfee, which included skin darkening, facial distortion and colouring his hair?

I’m still a fan of CV Dazzle. If you’re going to change your appearance to “jam” facial recognition systems, you can make a bolder fashion statement than wearing a ski mask. Well, I guess Ski Mask is a pretty bold fashion statement, but click over to CV Dazzle for other options that don’t scream “I just robbed a bank.”

Howie Woo also has a more cheery alternative for those committed to the mask, but his approach has its own risks.

Biometrics in Art: Finger Portraits


Artist flicks the finger to biometric age with eerily familiar portraits (Perth Now)

Concerned with the ‘complex mysteries of identity’ Dito wanted to create a viral project which would inspire people to think about their own ‘digital identities’.

Using fingers and even his own unique finger-print seemed like the perfect illustration of this given what a tool it has become in the modern era of touch-screens, mouse pads and keyboards.

“This Or That Person”: New film dwells on the notion of personhood

ID please? (The Hindu)

The Unique Identity number (UID or aadhar) project was introduced in India in 2009 and through the lens of the UID, the film looks at what identity documents means to people, and how the aadhar project is perceived.

The documentary dwells on the notion of personhood as seen by the India State, or as the director puts it, “It is a conversation with the State about ideas of inclusion, exclusion, surveillance and citizenship, and it does so by interrogating the Unique Identity number project.

“The Unique Identity Number that the State will give each citizen is meant to be the solution for a lot of problems, but in a system that is already suffering from structural problems how effective will the UID be?” questions Subasri.

Biometrics is about people.

If anyone knows anything more about this film or how to see it, please let me know.

First-hand account of a “Vacation in Utopia”

A delightful vignette of a possible biometric future written by Dr. Ben Ajayi…

You are unique and wonderfully made (Nigerian Tribune)

The billboard was not done with me as it flashed another page for me to read, “Dr. Ben, you are unique and wonderfully made. Of all persons alive today and even those who have lived before you since the beginning of time not one is like you. Your voice is special; no other fingerprints are like yours; no-one looks like you; speaks exactly like you; laughs like you; walks like you with your exact weight, height and mannerism. We use all these facts in our data base to identify you. Do please feel free to enjoy our country.”

h/t @m2sys

Facial Recognition in Art: 15 Minutes of Biometric Fame

I like this one because it’s ever-so slightly seditious. If Google’s objective is to organize all the world’s information, 15 Minutes of Biometric Fame, in a very small way tries to make that job a little harder.

15 Minutes of Biometric Fame by Marnix de Nijs (

A circular track is fitted with a camera crane mounted with an independently operated camera. The camera lens imposes on public space, seeking out and scanning the visitor’s facial features. Rather than identifying a person, the biometric video analysis software assists in comparing their characteristics with a preselected data base of “celebrity” faces.

Compiled by De Nijs from a series of multilingual online search results, the initial 75,000 strong data bank consisted of typical celebrity personages as well as those who have attained fame through exposure on reality television and from the world of internet video. Each individual is tagged with one of twelve categories of stardom in one of eleven languages. These can range from artist to rock or porn star through to soap actor and musician.

See also:
More posts on biometrics in art.