The facial recognition technology that is used by surveillance cameras, smartphones and social media sites can be fooled by a simple pair of plastic glasses that use a semi-transparent visor to distort people’s facial features.
Researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Informatics have invented a “Privacy Visor” that can foil facial recognition devices and software by reflecting surrounding light back into the camera lens.
Patterns and angles on the visor absorb and reflect light, causing a person’s face to appear brighter to digital cameras, which hides key facial features around a person’s eyes and nose that are needed for facial recognition software to identify people.
The Privacy Visor was able to fool smartphone cameras and facial recognition programs around 90% of the time.
Unfortunately, the glasses do limit a person’s natural visibility and are not intended for use while driving a vehicle or riding a bicycle.
The glasses are most effective in public places where other people could be taking pictures and posting them on social media sites that use facial recognition programs to identify people and tag photos online.
The original version of the Privacy Visor was created in 2012, but it required strange LED lighting around the frame that was powered with a large lithium battery which made it impractical for people to wear.
The current Privacy Visor is made with a downward-sloping, semi-transparent plastic visor that is fitted over plastic eyeglass frames and does not require a battery to work.
A commercial version of the glasses will sport a titanium frame along with a less obtrusive and more stylish lens.
People’s interest in anti-surveillance clothing and accessories is growing due to the increased use of facial recognition and identification software by police, government agencies and technology companies like Google and Facebook.
A commercial version of the Privacy Visor will be available for people to buy in June 2016 with an estimated retail cost of around $240.00.
However, proving that surveillance technology is a constant game of spy versus spy, some tech companies are already working of “faceless” facial recognition programs that use other physical details to identify people.
In June, it was reported that Facebook’s artificial intelligence lab is working on an alternative way to identify people in photographs that uses non-facial physical and personal characteristics like hair styles, clothing styles, height, body shape, gait and poses.
Early tests of this new faceless identification system are around 83% accurate, so these privacy glasses may be obsolete even before they are available.
Perhaps the next big social network will be called Facelessbook.