Policy

These Glasses Can Thwart Facial Recognition Software

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

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||| 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.