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.

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.

Surveillance, transparency, accountability & technology

TrapWire: Anonymous gives handy tips on how to avoid surveillance

This video has a heavy dose of dead pan humor, which is actually quite endearing.

As far as biometrics countermeasures go, I, like Anonymous, am still a fan of CV Dazzle because there’s something stylish and fun about what how they go about the challenge of defeating facial recognition.

The infra-red LED trick is really cool, too. Fans of the show White Collar will have seen that hack come into play in last week’s episode. That’s the first place I saw it.

All of this, while fun, socially interesting and even romantic, ignores the fact that the smartphone is the holy grail of surveillance technologies. Someone can wear a mask and a crazy hair do, head cocked 20 degrees to the side under a LED hat all they want. It won’t do any good if internet companies and cell providers (whether knowingly or unwittingly) cough up everything they know about individuals. The other virtue of the mobile computing surveillance model is that it requires no taxes, maintenance, or budget. The watched pay their own freight. That makes this type of surveillance available to individuals and organizations that might not have a lot of money or labor.

The answer isn’t regulating private use of technologies such as cell phones or biometrics. With technology, blanket moratoriums and bans are almost never the answer and even more rarely succeed. It may not be romantic or fashionable but the only answer is transparency and accountability.

Technology is all about people. It always will be.

Background on TrapWire

How to Inoculate Against Public Facial Recognition

How to Defend Yourself Against Facial Recognition Technology (PBS)

Facial recognition technology [FRT] is now just about everywhere we are…

Do we simply have to accept this as inevitable, or are there things we can do to protect ourselves and others against improper or repressive use of FRT?

Below are some tactical and technological defenses against FRT. Specifically, two layers of those involve: 1) when we are being watched, for example, at protests or in a public space, and 2) when we ourselves are taking and sharing images of others, especially online.

This well sourced-article contains a wealth of information and links having to do with in person and online public facial recognition.

Of course, CV Dazzle gets plenty of attention, as it should.

The app that automatically pixelates the faces in pictures users take with their mobile phones is really cool, too.

Then there’s the software in “Friends” a threat to your privacy? This facial recognition app might help, which isn’t mentioned in the PBS piece, but it would fit right in.