The Big Idea: Beating Facial Recognition with Patterned Fashion


Biometric verification man face recognitionYou’ve seen it in spy films and science fiction everywhere. If you are a fan of crime dramas you may have seen it crop up in there as a plot device, but facial recognition technology is becoming more and more a reality. It is not necessarily at the level you would see in, say, a James Bond movie so I wouldn’t worry too much. However, facial recognition at its current state is becoming a bigger and bigger privacy issue as security cameras are ubiquitous. They are everywhere, even when you don’t realize they are. Even the most basic of facial recognition can track your whereabouts simply by identifying you by your face. Once an image of your face is captured, the software can put your likeness—more like attribute as in cheekbones, pronounced chin, hairline, and basics of that nature—in a database, and use your likeness to track your whereabouts.

Is facial recognition up to what we see in fiction? No. Is facial recognition developed enough to worry about a lack of privacy? I would say, yes. As it goes with emerging technology, though, there are hackers and privacy advocates that are developing methods to beat facial recognition.

The Guardian reports Berlin artist and independent researcher Adam Harvey is developing a new technology—and yes, trendy fashion—that aims to overwhelm surveillance systems by feeding false information to the recognition software. Harvey created the Hyperface Project, and how it works is by wearing deceitful patterns on clothing, the print resembling different “faces” (or at least the basic patterns of faces) appearing all over your clothing.

Here’s an idea of what this pattern looks like:


To understand how the Hyperface Project works to undo the basics of facial recognition, you should have an idea of what the software is looking for. The software is looking for the basic elements of a face: eyes, nose, mouth. Once it finds the basics, the software then goes a deeper level with your face’s quality: skin tone, hair color, and the link. However, the software has to see the basics first. This Hyperface pattern completely overwhelms the image processing as it appears to be a large number of people all standing around you, so the software on seeing the Hyperface pattern begins calculating all these eyes, noses, and mouths, trying to work out where a single, defined face is. Hyperface can actually throw facial recognition programs off. So if you are looking to insure your privacy when you shop, simply wear a scarf or tee-shirt with this pattern, and facial recognition software will simply leave you alone.

x ray security camera or cctv cameraHarvey is working to put this Hyperface pattern on hats, blouses, and all sort of garments, turning privacy protection into a real fashion statement and a very stylish way to beat the ever-evolving, 1984-esque technology of surveillance.

Then again, you can also buy a pair of 22 cent sunglasses and beat facial recognition software. Chances are, Mr. Harvey really didn’t want me to reveal how easy it is to scramble these software packages.

It’s the little things that sometimes work best.




shurtz.jpgA research physicist who has become an entrepreneur and educational leader, and an expert on competency-based education, critical thinking in the classroom, curriculum development, and education management, Dr. Richard Shurtz is the president and chief executive officer of Stratfdord University. He has published over 30 technical publications, holds 15 patents, and is host of the weekly radio show, Tech Talk. A noted expert on competency-based education, Dr. Shurtz has conducted numerous workshops and seminars for educators in Jamaica, Egypt, India, and China, and has established academic partnerships in China, India, Sri Lanka, Kurdistan, Malaysia, and Canada.