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How to trick the computers and avoid facial recognition

A New York-based designer has created a camouflage technique that makes it much harder for computer based facial recognition.

Along with the growth of closed circuit television (CCTV) , this has become quite a concern for many around the world, especially in the UK where being on camera is simply a part of city life. Being recognised automatically by computer is something that hearkens back to 1984 or A Scanner Darkly. As we move further into the 21st century, this futuristic techno-horror fiction is seeming more and more accurate.

Never fear though people, CV Dazzle (opens in new tab) has some styling and makeup ideas that will make you invisible to facial recognition cameras. Why the 'fabulous' name? It comes from World War I warship paint (opens in new tab) that used stark geometric patterning to help break up the obvious outline of the vessel.

Apparently it all began as a thesis at the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University. It addressed the problems with traditional techniques of hiding the face, like masks and sunglasses and looked into more socially and legally acceptable ways of styling that could prevent a computer from recognising your face. Fans of Assassin's Creed might feel a bit at home with this, as it's all about hiding in plain sight.

The main focus of the camouflage is to use makeup and hair to create a look that is a mix between organic and machine. This makes it very hard to program software that can detect facial features if the traditional lines of a person's visage are broken up in non-organic fashion.

For those wanting to give a shot at protect their identity, there are a few basic tips offered:

1. Avoid enhancers: They amplify key facial features.

2. Partially obscure the nose-bridge: The region where the nose, eyes, and forehead intersect is a key facial feature.

3. Partially obscure the ocular region: The position and darkness of eyes is a key facial feature.

4. Remain inconspicuous: For camouflage to function, it must not be perceived as a mask or disguise.

The site offers up some examples of facial recognition working despite traditional tribal makeup that you'd think would make it very hard to recognise a face, but surprisingly no. However, the CVDazzle designs that involves hair that extends across the bridge of the nose in spikes and some pixel like squares of makeup to break up cheek bones, made it impossible for faces to be detected. There are a few extreme examples, but some of the shown makeup techniques could easily be seen as relatively normal in certain social circles.

The technology is also tested against Facebook's photo tagging. Uploading many images of the same person to the social network with various stages and developments of makeup and hair ultimately leads to no faces detected what so ever.

It'll be an interesting future indeed if to keep our identity private while out and about we all need to resort to outlandish makeup and dress. Perhaps Fifth Element is a more likely future than we previously thought.

Dipping his toes into almost everything that could be labeled 'nerdy' in his free time, Jon has been writing about technology for over half a decade. While mainly focusing on PC hardware thoughout this time, today he's more varied, covering everything from gaming to general electronics, industry perspectives and consoles. As well as writing for different sites, Jon enjoys wargaming, reading and PC gaming, hoping to balance out these geeky pastimes with fire spinning and MMA.