These Glasses Can Thwart Facial Recognition Software

In an age of ever-increasing surveillance, one simple technology could help protect your privacy.


||| glasses/AVG blog

Privacy-minded citizens wary of digital tracking may soon be able to throw away their tin foil hats and adopt a less-drastic approach.

Anti-virus software company AVG has introduced glasses that foil face-tracking software. The glasses, which are only proofs of concept at this point, use strategically placed infrared LEDs to around the eyes and nose to interfere with camera filters, distorting light to damage images taken of your face. 

The lights, which are completely invisible to human eyes, are detectable by cameras. This means that humans can still easily identify you in photos, but your image is undetectable by facial recognition algorithms. The glasses also have a reflective coating that covers you in case of a flash photo.

AVG cites the increase in smartphone cameras, Google StreetView technology, and technology such as Facebook's DeepFace, which "could soon give a private corporations power to not only recognize us, but also cross-reference our faces to other data found online," as motivation behind the technology.

(Google Glass, once a concern for its privacy implications, may not be as much of a threat. The product was taken off the market last month.)

AVG's glasses could prevent photos of you from being flagged that might compromise, say, your parole requirements or the "sick day" excuse you sent your boss.

A test by the tech website Engadget with iPhone, Nexus, and DSLR cameras found varying degrees of performance at concealing facial identity. At least the glasses are more practical than the "invisibility cloak" lens introduced last September.

Don't expect to see AVG's glasses on sale any time soon, though. As of now, the company is only advertising the technology as a concept for implementation in other products.

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  1. Privacy-minded citizens wary of digital tracking may soon be able to throw away their tin foil hats and adopt a less-drastic approach.

    *Clings even tighter to foil hat*


    1. [Breaks out foodservice-grade tinfoil]

      1. I figured at some point you just graduate to Spangenhelm.

        1. Nice.

      2. Why not a space blanket?

    2. Congress will make owning a pair of these glasses a federal felony with a 50 year mandatory minimum prison sentence. Of course, all current and former government crooks will be exempt from this new law, when they pass it in a few years. And some states like Florida will make owning a pair punishable by the electric chair. The state of Florida has the longest prison terms of any state in the country. You can be charged with a felony there for Jay walking!

  2. I know privacy is important and all, but if it means wearing hipster glasses, maybe exhibitionism isn’t so bad.

    1. You calling Matt a dork?

    2. Maybe a headband?

      The Olivia Newton John version for the gals?

      Or a Dez Dickerson version for the urban youth

      1. Or a Ralph Macchio version for the tweeners?

  3. Can this technology be used to foil license plate readers and red light cameras?

    1. Possibly.

      Of course, if it actually does work it would be deemed contraband in some states.

      1. It doesn’t look like it works for what they claim, based on the engadget test. I’ve seen license plate obfuscation techniques that involved IR emitters around the plate, glitter in a plate cover, directional lensing in a plate cover…. none of them seemed effective enough to get you out of a ticket, although the directional lensing did obscure part of the plate. Still, a partial plate along with a make and model of the car should be enough to find you and give you the ticket for running the red light and another ticket for an obstructed plate.

        1. IR LEDs might have potential, but even if they were bright enough, since IR LEDs are mass produced in a few common wavelengths, defeating most attempts would be fairly easy. Just install filters on the cameras that block emissions on those common wavelengths leaving the rest of the IR and visible spectrum untouched.

          I wonder if maybe coating the back of your car with something that is highly reflective, while reducing the reflectivity of the plate would do it. The idea would be to mess with the exposure of the camera, overexposing the back of the vehicle and underexposing the plate. But you would need to keep the back of the car very clean all the time, and it might be quite conspicuous to anyone behind you.

        2. Ima thinking a license plate frame with a sheet of plexiglas and sideways facing LEDs that illuminate the plexiglas. The plexiglas would have to have some type of particles or other specialness that would make the sheet opaque when side-illuminated. Any materials scientists here? Also, I’m wondering if its even possible to detect the flash and illuminate the plate cover in enough time to thwart the camera. Perhaps you’d need to automatically obscure the plate each time you go through an intersection, but that would make you a cop magnet, too.

          1. I believe that is kind of how a lot of LCD smartphones get lit.

            If you did it in IR instead of visible light, then it could be left on all the time. Though the question is, would it be bright enough to throw off the camera, assuming the camera is sensitive to that light.

          2. The plexiglas would have to have some type of particles or other specialness that would make the sheet opaque when side-illuminated. Any materials scientists here?

            It doesn’t have to be anything special, just about any clear plastic can work as a waveguide. So long as the light side is smooth (or the lights are intense enough) and the surface the camera is looking at is moderately rough, you would generate an obstructive evanescent wave.

    2. They already have reactive license plate frames that light up when they detect a flash. Yes, the state hates those.

      1. Speaking of red light camera flashes….

        I have several near my home. The flashes are going off all the time when there is clearly nobody running the red light. I don’t know if they go on to issue the ticket or not, but I have seen the flashes go off dozens of times when there was nobody running the light, and I’ve only seen it go off once when there was someone running the light. (I have also seen it many more times when I wasn’t close enough to the intersection to see if anyone was runnig the light. Those things go off a lot)

        Also, the flash is very distracting. At night it is crazy bright and if you happen to be looking in the wrong direction it could screw with your night vision. In the day it is also very eye catching. I suppose it will become more routine over time, but it is enough of a distraction that it could conceivably cause an accident, particularly something like running over a pedestrian because you looked away toward the flash just as you started to pull away from the stop light.

        1. And you want them to turn that off for your selfish convenience, don’t you, Mr. Libertarian? Red light cameras save lives!!1! Why do you hate the children?

          But seriously, I can’t wait for one of those things to trigger an epileptic seizure in a law-abiding motorist causing an accident.

        2. Those stupid red light cameras are here to stay. Police even send innocent people these tickets, because they figure most people won’t show up to fight it in court. The government thugs could care less if these cameras actually cause more accidents, they only care about the income they get from them. It helps to give them extra pay and benefits. Of course if you work for the government the police or the court will gladly throw out the ticket.

  4. Looking forward to my Scramble Suit ala A Scanner Darkly.

  5. These Glasses Can Thwart Facial Recognition Software

    Uhh, so can turning your head slightly to the left, wearing sunglasses or a baseball hat.

  6. I dont see the privacy concern with google glasses.

    I just face the reality that google contacts are coming. You will have literally no indication that you are being recorded.

    If you are in public, deal with it. If you are in private, deal with the fact that the people you choose to associate with may be recording. If you have a one night stand, you are making amateur porn, deal with it.

    1. I will embrace our shitty cyberpunk future with open eyes.

  7. These things emit light?

    Has anyone done any testing on what second hand light can do to innocent people who might just happen to be walking by? Where are the studies that PROVE this second hand light is safe?

    I know this lawyer named Chuck McGill who has been hospitalized because of shit like this, so this isn’t something to joke about with me!

    1. Our eyes may not be able to detect IR, but it does enter the eye and get focused on the retina where at high enough intensity and duration it can cause damage.

  8. I’m too lazy to figure out why these can’t be easily defeated by a cut-off filter.

    1. But where does it end? First they use cameras so you use LEDs. Then they use bandpass filters and you use… halogen bulbs?

      As for me, I’m sticking with my balaclava/spangenhelm ensemble.

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  10. Screw it, I’m just gonna wear a surgical mask everywhere. If anyone asks I’ll tell them I have a compromised immune system

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  12. The cat and mouse games never end do they? Every time they build a better mouse trap darned if the mice just don’t get smarter

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