Just when the use of facial recognition to identify people is becoming more pervasive with businesses and governments, along comes an inexpensive personal accessory that could disrupt the whole plan.
A research team at Carnegie Mellon University has invented a cheap pair of eyeglass frames that can fool the most advanced facial-recognition systems. Remarkably, these low-tech glasses can be created on a 3-D printer for just 22 cents a pair.
The peculiar-looking glasses don’t just disguise people from being identified by facial recognition programs; they can actually fool the system into identifying a person as someone else.
The glass frames have colorful patterns printed on them that confuse facial recognition programs, which rely on known digital facial patterns to successfully identify people.
In addition, the researchers were able to trick the facial recognition systems into thinking they were another person, simply by altering the patterns that are printed on the glass frames. They were even able to trick the recognition programs into thinking that they were a famous person or celebrity by printing patterns on the glass frames that were like the digital facial patterns found on well-known and famous people.
Tests on how effective the glasses are showed that they were able to confuse facial recognition technology about a person’s identity 100 percent of the time. However, the glasses were only able to fool the system into believing that a person was a famous celebrity anywhere from 16 percent to 88 percent of the time.
Although initial tests show that these glasses are good at disguising people from having their faces identified by facial recognition, there are still some questions and potential problems with their use.
For one thing, the glasses are very big and strange looking. They actually make people look comical, like a cartoon character. This fact alone will make most people not want to wear them out in public. What person wants to leave their house looking like SpongeBob SquarePants.
Another problem with the glasses is that they haven’t been tested enough to know exactly how effective they are at hiding the identity of people. So far, they have only been tested by the people who created them. The glasses will require extensive independent testing before we actually know how effective they are at disguising people from facial identification systems.
But, aesthetics and testing aside, these low-tech disguises could be a step towards a better-looking design that simply and effectively foils the most advanced facial recognition programs.