Beating Facial Recognition in 5 Easy Steps

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published on Aug 24, 2012

Few topics fan the flames of privacy activists like video surveillance. Depending on who you are, video cameras either dramatically improve security or are the ultimate end of it. In response to the recent Wikileaks Trapwire leak, someone claiming to be part of the self proclaimed uber-hacker collective 'Anonymous' produced a video offering tips on "how-to fool facial recognition cameras", embedded below:

Here's a quick recap of the clips's recommendations plus our feedback:

1. Wear a Mask: The pro to this approach is its drop dead effectiveness in stopping facial recognition. Even the best, most advanced analytic is not going to make out your identity when it's obscured by a mask (unless you always wear the same mask - i.e., SpiderMan). The con to this approach is that wearing masks in public tends to draw suspicion on their own merit. Unless, of course, you've taken to wearing a 'facekini' to protect your complexion. However, if you fall into this group, being recognized on camera might not be the worst thing that could happen anyway.

2. Tilt your Head 15 degrees to the Side While You Walk: Again, the pro to this approach is that it is fairly effective. But why bother tilting to the side when you can just tilt your head down and beat face recognition just the same? It's even natural. It's doesn't take extreme cambering of your head into a zombie posture to 'fool' facial recognition. In fact, simply tilting your head downward as if looking at you watch or the street in front of you is still a major problem for face rec (and the associated cameras) to overcome. There's no real 'con' to this method, beyond the realization at some point that a technology so easily fooled by jogging your head may not be capable of the omnipotent evil it is credited with.

3. Wear Strange Makeup: Pros- this probably works just fine to hide your identity, if done right. Cons- if done right, you will have a hard time pulling it off every day - unless your adoring public expects nothing less.

4. Use Lasers to Disable Cameras: This method has a big upside for defeating analytics. In fact, it defeats the entire camera at the same time. However, the downside is that it requires an insane amount of luck (skill?) and a fair amount of equipment and time to properly align and execute. Not to mention the target camera has ample time to record you setting up your laser pointer beforehand.

5. Make an LED Hat: If the Facekini or makeup aren't your style, the video suggests you can always make an IR LED-laced hat. The net effect of wearing such a hat creates a glare of UV that obscures your face from any IR enabled camera.

With all due respect to those concerned with privacy and the illegal use of surveillance, we offer 'Better Recommendations':

1. Wear a Ballcap or Sunglasses: Frankly, it doesn't matter if they contain LEDs, Lasers, or Kryptonite. Facial Analytics simply aren't powerful enough to ignore basic changes to appearance and still work. Too much respect is given the ability of facial recognition analytics, especially given they simply do not work well enough to overcome the simple, everyday flucuations in personal appearance.

2. Do Not Do Anything at All: Most cameras are mounted too high/weird angles, and lack the image resolutions to detect faces anyway. As we've already noted, recognizing faces is hard even in ideal situations - with correct pixel count, proper camera mounting height, and when subjects look squarely at the cameras. The chances that old, dusty dome hung 20 feet up is going to make your face correctly is fairly absurd.

3. Don't Believe Everything You Read: While it makes for exciting reading and racks up page views, TrapWire's abilities have been grossly over exaggerated. The premise that a massive, interconnected, fully cooperational network of surveillance cameras is being used to track movements is science fiction fodder. While it is a compelling idea for some, and the manifestation of evil for others, simply because an idea is 'theoretically possible' does not mean it is plausible or impending.

While TV and the movies almost always vastly overstates facial recognition's effectiveness, here's one TV show that surprisingly tells it like it is:

Comments : PRO Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports on Facial Recognition

The False SCMP Story on Hikvision NYC AI on Jan 14, 2019
In the past week, one of Asia's largest publications, the South China Morning Post (SCMP), posted an article about "Chinese [facial recognition]...
CES 2019 Show Report on Jan 10, 2019
IPVM was at CES 2019 for the second year (see our CES 2018 Show Final Report) and is reporting on announcements and interesting news from the show...
IPVM Best New Products 2019 Opened - 70+ Entrants on Jan 07, 2019
The inaugural IPVM Best New Product Awards has been opened - the industry's first and only program where the awards are not pay-to-play and the...
CyberExtruder Face Recognition Profile on Jan 04, 2019
CyberExtruder offers 3D modeling face recognition software that they say provides quicker and more accurate matches than other 2D face recognition...
Foolish Strategy: OEMing Facial Recognition on Dec 13, 2018
Almost as 'hot' as face recognition marketing right now is OEMing facial recognition. Last year, they were a who's who of company's with...
Akuvox Intercom Profile on Dec 06, 2018
Akuvox, a Chinese manufacturer of VoIP products, is expanding heavily into Video Intercom products with disruptive pricing targeted for commercial...
No GDPR Penalties For UK Swann 'Spying Hack' on Nov 20, 2018
The UK’s data protection agency has closed its investigation into Infinova-owned Swann Security UK, the ICO confirmed to IPVM, deciding to take “no...
ISC East 2018 Mini-Show Final Report on Nov 16, 2018
This is our second (updated) and final show report from ISC East. ISC East, by its own admission, is not a national or international show, billed...
Facial Detection Tested on Nov 16, 2018
Facial detection and recognition are increasingly offered by video surveillance manufacturers. Facial detection detects faces in an image/video...
Huawei To Be “Top Three Global Position” in Video Surveillance on Oct 29, 2018
Huawei - China’s biggest networking gear and smartphone maker - plans to become one of the top three global video surveillance manufacturers in...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Access Control Cabling Tutorial on Jan 15, 2019
Access Control is only as reliable as its cables. While this aspect lacks the sexiness of other components, it remains a vital part of every...
Gorilla Technology AI Provider, Raises $15 Million, Profiled on Jan 15, 2019
Gorilla Technology is a Taiwanese video analytics manufacturer that recently announced a $15 million investment from SBI Group, saying this...
2019 IP Networking Book Released on Jan 14, 2019
The new IP Networking Book 2019 is a 285 page in-depth guide that teaches you how IT and telecom technologies impact modern security...
Arecont Costar Layoffs on Jan 14, 2019
Arecont Vision, a Costar Company, has laid off more than 10% of their workforce in a move the company described to IPVM as a result of "important...
The False SCMP Story on Hikvision NYC AI on Jan 14, 2019
In the past week, one of Asia's largest publications, the South China Morning Post (SCMP), posted an article about "Chinese [facial recognition]...
WDR Tutorial on Jan 11, 2019
Understanding wide dynamic range (WDR) is critical to capturing high quality images in demanding conditions. However, with no real standards, any...
Pelco Favorability Results 2019 on Jan 11, 2019
Pelco had a significant favorability problem amongst integrators in our previous study (see 2016 Pelco results). Now, in the first edition of our...
Bad: Dahua Villa Video Doorbell Tested on Jan 11, 2019
Doorbells are one of the hottest segments in the residential market but Dahua's Villa Video Doorbell is the worst we have tested.   We bought and...
Last Chance - Winter 2019 IP Networking Course on Jan 10, 2019
Today is the last day to register for the Winter 2019 IP Networking course. This is the only networking course designed specifically for video...

The world's leading video surveillance information source, IPVM provides the best reporting, testing and training for 10,000+ members globally. Dedicated to independent and objective information, we uniquely refuse any and all advertisements, sponsorship and consulting from manufacturers.

About | FAQ | Contact