Encrypt your face and foil the NSA

Summary:Surveillance cameras are everywhere, backed by sophisticated facial recognition software. But you can defeat them, the NSA and whoever else is monitoring you. Here's how.

How you look, like your fingerprint, is write-once, read-many data., a fact that surveillance systems use to track you in person and online. But what if they couldn't see you?

The "they" of course is the computer vision (CV) software that automagically detects faces and then zeros in on the details. CV scans a photo or video image looking for faces, scoping out eyes, noses, ears, hair and chins.

The most common CV systems uses OpenCV, a free CV library from Intel, so that's the enemy you're looking to defeat. It uses a combination of image sampling, transformation and processing techniques - among many others - to enable a computer to "see".

256px-BMW-Protoyp,_vermutlich_3er_Reihe_(PPV)

A modern version of dazzle is used on pre-announcement cars to hide the details of its design while testing on public roads. Do you recognize this BMW? 

CV Dazzle

New York artist Adam Harvey has been investigating techniques for making CV not see a face. Dazzle is based on an older technique first used in WWI to protect ships by making it hard to estimate their range, speed and heading.

He recommends a number of strategies, including

  • Avoid eyeshadow and mascara - it makes your eyes easier to recognize.
  • Use makeup that contrasts with your skin tone in unusual directions.
  • Obscure where your eyes, nose and forehead intersect, a key region for CV.
  • Obscure part of your eyes and the elliptical shape of your head.
  • Make sure your look is asymetrical.

Here's a couple of examples, courtesy of Mr. Harvey:

look1-md

 

look3-md

Naturally, these looks have a downside: they're offputting for human-based facial recognition. People will think you're weird.

In a piece for Atlantic magazine, writer Robinson Meyer tried wearing CV Dazzle makeup for several days. He reports that the makeup made him "impossibly noticeable" and changed how strangers reacted to him - and not in a good way.

The Storage Bits take

There's a reason photo ID exists: your face is unique AND people are very good at facial recognition. Now that every picture of you - such as you slurping beer from the belly button of someone at a club - can be tied to you, maybe we don't want to flash our ID everywhere we go.

Your body is a form of storage beyond your DNA. Your face, fingerprints, height, coloring - eyes, skin, hair - shoe size and more are "personally identifying information" as privacy policies note.

As the surveillance state wraps its tentacles ever-tighter around our lives, individuals have fewer and fewer ways to stay private. CV Dazzle shows us a new strategy for foiling at least part of our brave new world.

Comments welcome, as always. I can see coastal hipsters going for this, but will it play in Peoria?

 

Topics: Storage

About

Harris has been working with computers for over 35 years and selling and marketing data storage for over 30 in companies large and small. He introduced a couple of multi-billion dollar storage products (DLT, the first Fibre Channel array) to market, as well as a many smaller ones. Earlier he spent 10 years marketing servers and networks.... Full Bio

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