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Fashion That Can Beat Facial Recognition Systems

The world knows much more about your face that you may ever realize. Your images appear in surveillance camera footage from gas stations, city streets, or in your local grocery store. Furthermore, if you have face identification apps in any of your gadgets, then the phone has intimate details of that unique forehead of yours.

Ever since 1969, when three scientists from Japan used an algorithm to identify the first human face, computerized facial recognition has always been on the use. In China, for instance, facial recognition technology is part of their day to day life. The country is scattered with about 200 million surveillance cameras. These are used for tracking heavy spenders in any luxury retail store, preventing violent crime, catching identity thieves, snagging jaywalkers, and finding fugitives. What’s more, even schools have them installed in classrooms to catch sleeping students.

AI companies believe that face recognition and surveillance technology may improve the country’s safety. In the US, the tools are rapidly gaining popularity and are increasingly utilized by law enforcement agencies. In some cases, you could be using your face as your boarding pass. Also, summer camps for children have cameras that use facial recognition technology to send photos and notification to the parents of the respective parents.

Soon, cameras will do more than just identify faces. For instance, Amazon’s Rekognition software can assess faces for emotions like anger, surprise, and fear. However, many civil liberty advocates and citizens alike believe the uses of privacy and error may overshadow the security value.

This calls for the need to counter the way different parties use our faces, particularly in retail and commercial spaces. As a result, artists, technologists, and designers have come up with designs and clothing that can overwhelm and confuse facial recognition systems.

But first, here is how the technology operates. 

How facial recognition technology works

Traditionally, when talking about facial recognition, we refer to a computer system identifying a face in a video or photo. It may also involve identifying specific facial biometrics like jaw shape, the spacing between eyes, the relative placement of cheekbones, and much more. Notably, your face has a total of 80 nodes that can be used by the technology. But only 14-20 of these are enough to identify a unique face effectively.

The trick is getting a computer to identify these individual nodes, and this would require the specific program to train using a range of training images to recognize a face. Once the systems can identify a face, it creates mathematical representations of these looks based on a range of standard faces.

The system, however, is far from perfect. As much as you may hear stories of high-end stores that use the technology to identify celebrity patrons, this mechanization has many weaknesses. For instance, it is hard for it to identify the biometric information of a face at near-profile.

You can easily thwart the current systems by looking at your feet. Not only is it subtle, but it also blocks eye-level cameras from viewing your face. The systems can also be fooled if you change your skin’s physical map through rhinoplasty.

But you can also go the easy way to beat surveillance by adopting several brilliant fashion trends.

Genius fashion designs to beat facial recognition

Databases today are jam-packed with lots of our data. From license plate numbers to fingerprints, to photos with people’s actual faces, all these are opportunities that all sorts of people can use to trace you. So the world’s brilliant minds have established a working solution to avoid databases: feeding them with faulty data by wearing protective clothing or gear.

Here are some of the most resourceful designs to help you fool surveillance, their strengths, and their weaknesses.

1. Anti-paparazzi scarves

These can make it impossible for anyone to snap a good photograph of you in the dark or dim light. Some sections of these scarves are made using reflective materials which can confuse any camera. What’s more, they would not even look bad on you!

You can also get this material into any of your pieces of clothing such as hats, t-shirts, suits, or necklaces.

2. Face masks

Whether this may be a good idea to evade facial recognition depends on how acceptable this accessory is within your location. Pollution is a key problem in most of the world’s major cities, and it is common to meet people wearing masks in such places. This option is obviously great when you want to take care of your privacy in such locations.

However, if you are the only one with a mask, you can stand out even more as ‘that person wearing a mask.’

3. Temporary face paintings

This is yet another easy way of fooling facial recognition technology. To stay undetected with the machines, you can apply temporary tattoos or unusual markers on your head. Not only is the technique pretty simple, but you also make a fashion statement.

However, few people are likely to join you with your little protest. So you may stand out, and human watchers may find it fairly easy to recognize you. But this does not mean that wearers cannot look super stylish and still avoid surveillance cameras.

4. More and more patterns

Anything with the appearance of a face can easily distract computer systems. You can take advantage of this by printing patterns with simple human face structures on your shirts, blouses, or coats. The effectiveness of this method, however, should be properly assessed first. This way, you can be sure of your solution before using it to hide from any form of draconian authority.

5. Anti-CCTV glasses

Normally, CCTV cameras use LED lights that transmit UV light that is usually invisible to your eyes to facilitate night vision. But these anti-CCTV ‘Reflectacles‘ can detect the light and simply reflect it to the camera. As a result, the monitoring device will blind itself.

Very stupid CCTV camera!

6. Anti-drone fashion

This genius idea by Adam Harvey can hide you from facial recognition systems based on the face’s thermal images. The Stealth Wear line leverages lightweight metallic fabric which reflects your heat to mask thermal signature from drones. Notably, most of the pieces in this collection have an ordinary look, much like some sort of reflective safety clothing.

7. Camera-fighting LEDs

This is the brainchild of Isao Echizen (associate professor, National Institute of Informatics, Tokyo) and Professor Seiichi Gohshi (Kogakuin University). The privacy visor works almost the same as the anti-CCTV glasses. The only difference is that it hides the face of the wearer from cameras by emitting near-infrared LEDs that obscure their facial features.

After lighting the LEDs, these ‘glasses’ add noise to any image captured by the cameras without obfuscating your vision. While the prototype may not be an attractive solution, it does not occlude with your face when interacting with others face-to-face.

The bottom line

Of course, a majority of these privacy fashion solutions can beat specific categories of facial recognition systems. As the technology improves and changes, likely, the styles may also evolve. Also, some of these ideas are more visually extreme compared to the currently available mainstream fashion. Thus, you need to ensure that your preferred solution can protect you from surveillance cameras and prying human eyes as well.

Also, these privacy gimmicks may not effectively hide your whereabouts when in public spaces if they are deployed by themselves. You can still be on someone’s radar with your mobile phone inside your pockets, for instance.

For further expert guidance on how to protect your privacy, feel free to contact us now.

By Georg Tichy

Georg Tichy is a management consultant in Vienna, focusing on top-management consultancy, corporate reporting and crowdfunding. Furthermore he helps establishing and funding start-up's. Dr. Georg Tichy is a lecturer at university and trainer for start-up's, takes on speaking engagements about financial and nonfinancial management-related seminars and conferences, and publishes on current economic issues in professional journals

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