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Fashion Solutions for Hiding from SkyNet
July 24, 2014 9:25 AM   Subscribe

In Anti-Surveillance Camouflage for Your Face, technology reporter Robinson Meyer details an experiment in which he tried actually going about his day to day life in downtown Washington DC while wearing CV Dazzle, (previously on MeFi) makeup and hairstyles to confuse facial recognition software. The technique is inspired by the old naval technique of dazzle camouflage, which sought not to conceal a ship, but to confuse viewers as to its size and heading. Similarly, CV Dazzle aims to confuse software by making your face look less like a face and more like a confusing collection of shapes. This proves to have unanticipated effects on how Robinson is perceived by humans as well, leading to insights about how our appearance signals our privilege and place in the social hierarchy, and how that can overlap or conflict with the digital wakes we leave.
posted by Naberius (78 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
I want a tinfoil hat in dazzle camo!
posted by lalochezia at 9:34 AM on July 24 [2 favorites]


Damn it. Better post title, from the article: "looking strange contorts public trust in weird ways."

I don't suppose some helpful mod wants to change it?
posted by Naberius at 9:36 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


The very thing that makes you invisible to computers makes you glaringly obvious to other humans.

Akin to the idea here on MetaFilter, of hands-on human-directed moderation with technological tools, not as practiced on other forms with anti-spam bots and wordfilters.

CV dazzle made my face highly visible. Perhaps even unforgettable.

But will they remember the face, or just the dazzle?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:37 AM on July 24 [7 favorites]


This is how I envisioned all the people in Neuromancer to have their hair
posted by ShawnString at 9:37 AM on July 24 [27 favorites]


looking strange contorts public trust in weird ways

Stranging weirds trust.
posted by The Tensor at 9:39 AM on July 24 [23 favorites]


This proves to have unanticipated effects on how Robinson is perceived by humans as well

I think most people would have anticipated that.
posted by ryanrs at 9:39 AM on July 24 [13 favorites]


I was going to say "have we really come so far from glam rock that this kind of facial makeup would be shocking in public?" but from the looks of the photos attached to the article he kind of half-assed it. You need to go full Bowie, dude.
posted by elizardbits at 9:40 AM on July 24 [32 favorites]


I've wondered what would happen if you wore CV Dazzle into a place where facial recognition was used in a live environment -- such as a high-end Vegas casino -- as opposed to Facebook algorithms running on a delay.

Would the system be able to throw an alarm, such as "Danger -- I recognize that figure as human but can't resolve the face." How quickly would the human security recognize the makeup for for what it was? How quickly would it be before you were singled out?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:45 AM on July 24 [3 favorites]


The Viola Wells face recognition algorithm really depends on light/dark contrast patches, so I suspect this would work well -- and my understanding is that the face detection circuits in our brains work pretty much the same way, so no surprise that our freaks people out.. But that's face detection, not recognition. I expect just wearing sunglasses would demolish any face recognition algorithm currently known, and you don't have to look insane to do it.
posted by miyabo at 9:45 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


If I had seen him I would have just checked the paper to see where the KISS tribute was playing.
posted by localroger at 9:46 AM on July 24 [7 favorites]


If we can all evade computer surveillance by looking like characters from Liquid Sky then I think we'd all be doubly better off as a society
posted by taromsn at 9:46 AM on July 24 [7 favorites]


The first thing to know about wearing the dazzle is that everyone looks at you.

Including government agents, who have been giving closer scrutiny to people with any awareness of how to evade monitoring. A person wearing dazzle camo would likely be considered worth tracking until they reach their identifiable home.

Preventing a government from spying on its own citizens is a political problem which has no technological solution.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:46 AM on July 24 [13 favorites]


...leading to insights about how our appearance signals our privilege and place in the social hierarchy, and how that can overlap or conflict with the digital wakes we leave.

What insights? There was basically nothing surprising about this; dressing it up with words like "privilege" and "social hierarchy" don't add much to the pretty obvious idea that looking weird makes people suspicious that you may be a crazy person.
posted by Edgewise at 9:47 AM on July 24 [10 favorites]


This proves to have unanticipated effects on how Robinson is perceived by humans as well
I think most people would have anticipated that.


Yeah, probably. Still, if you're having the experience of being conspicuously weird-looking in public for the first time, it can be surprising just how strong the effect is. Even if "get weird looks" is the goal, it's really, really disconcerting — in a way that's hard to prepare for in advance — to actually get those weird looks.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:48 AM on July 24 [6 favorites]


I expect just wearing sunglasses would demolish any face recognition algorithm currently known, and you don't have to look insane to do it.

Corey Hart was wiser than any of us knew.
posted by Copronymus at 9:48 AM on July 24 [14 favorites]


Put it another way: there's a big difference between knowing in your head that people are gonna think you're weird and knowing in your gut what alienation and ostracism actually feel like.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:49 AM on July 24 [8 favorites]


You need to go full Bowie, dude.

Twisted Sister.
posted by srboisvert at 9:49 AM on July 24


Ah, fuck it — Gwar.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:50 AM on July 24 [3 favorites]


Twisted Sister.

My first choice was Mike Monroe but I was worried that no one would know who I was talking about, or would confuse him with Michael Moore, which would have been hilarious but a terrible derail.
posted by elizardbits at 9:51 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


insane clown posse is also on board here.
posted by rude.boy at 9:52 AM on July 24 [2 favorites]


Sunglasses won't fool a face recognition routine - they're specific shapes at eye level. Elton John like ones with weird protuberances that extend past the head might work and would make neat temporary dazzle.

The comment about beards was neat - they are essentially face outlines and signify human despite any dazzle.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:54 AM on July 24


The very thing that makes you invisible to computers makes you glaringly obvious to other humans.
Obvious, but not recognizable.

I remember long ago reading in the news about this place that was robbed. Everyone had the same description of the thief: he had a large bright orange band-aid on his forehead. They all noticed that, but no one noticed what he actually looked like.

The policeman interviewed said that she thought it was brilliant. They had absolutely no description of his face other than the bright band-aid.
posted by eye of newt at 9:54 AM on July 24 [19 favorites]


Also: he is a good-looking dude. This makeup on a shlubby, non-hip-haircut-having person (i.e. myself) would be, like, unfortunate.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 9:54 AM on July 24


The comment about beards was neat - they are essentially face outlines and signify human despite any dazzle.

It made me wonder what would happen if some guy trimmed his head hair in the shape of a goatee and stuck a prosthetic nose on his forehead upside down. Aside from being hilarious, obviously, how badly would it confound a program?
posted by elizardbits at 9:57 AM on July 24 [7 favorites]


The author hints at some issues that are more interesting (and probably troublesome to publish), like referring to the creator of Dazzle's offhand remark about showing female skin "because I wanted it to be like fashion" and then not following up with any sort of discussion.

Also, I think his expectation (and experience) that people would help is based on privilege. Young well dressed white man usually gets help except when he others himself and experiences the similar "ignoring" that the poor and homeless experience on city streets. That also could have been an interesting exploration.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 10:02 AM on July 24 [2 favorites]


I am not growing bangs. No.
posted by rtha at 10:06 AM on July 24 [2 favorites]


Yeah, apart from all the other issues here, this is basically how I imagine most of Gibson's characters look.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:14 AM on July 24 [3 favorites]


I couldn't grow bangs if I wanted to. Does that mean I need to CV dazzle my scalp?
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:15 AM on July 24


How to avoid facial recognition technology with one weird trick
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:18 AM on July 24 [7 favorites]


You know, you could get pretty mUch the same effect from wearing a gorilla mask. Our a clown face.
posted by happyroach at 10:22 AM on July 24


Right, but there are places which won't let you in wearing a mask (banks, presumably, definitely airports). I assume they would not really be able to bar your entry because of your makeup.
posted by elizardbits at 10:31 AM on July 24


See also Gibson/Sterling's idea for 'the ugliest t-shirt in the world' from 'Zero History'. A shirt covered in garish and confounding patterns that throws off facial recognition tech.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:34 AM on July 24 [3 favorites]


I've wondered what would happen if you wore CV Dazzle into a place...

OK you LV MeFites, your assignment, should you choose to accept it, will be to infiltrate the casinos.

Report back NTL 00:00.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:35 AM on July 24


There are a lot of threads still to be explored in this piece, even considering its length. I used to tweet with the author all the time and these pics look ridiculous. Cool that he's doing some interesting work.
posted by lownote at 10:39 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


Dazzle made me squeamish about not my safety—I was worried that the markings on my face would set me off as so “other” as to be beyond help, or to be pranking or play-acting my distress. It made me impossibly noticeable.

This just sounds like being a woman. We are so often dismissed as being hysterical or over reacting. I never assume that anyone will help me, unless I am in obvious real distress (bright red blood) and vulnerable. Asthma attack? I've gone down in a coughing fit and no one helped me. I know for certain this is also the experience of homeless people.

It's actually a little surprising to me that anyone takes it for granted that someone will emerge from the crowd to aid them.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:42 AM on July 24 [3 favorites]


Ah shit, President Snow is gonna be pissed.
posted by headspace at 10:46 AM on July 24 [4 favorites]


As others have noticed, the idea of camouflage is that it's better if your evasion technique is also undetectable. That seems obvious. So apparently there's more to the creator's vision than merely hiding.

It's also great that the designer found some hefty parameters to work with (and around), without losing sight of the opportunity to refocus the viewer's attention on the surveillance society.
posted by notyou at 10:46 AM on July 24


Ooh, you can use your phone to test it out! I never go out for Halloween, but I am definitely doing CV Dazzle this year.
posted by sfkiddo at 10:53 AM on July 24


rtha: I am not growing bangs. No.

I wonder if you could just do a black stripe instead? Although I'm a bit embarrassed that my bangs are already like Look No. 1. Maybe I'm ahead of my time?
posted by sfkiddo at 10:59 AM on July 24


Is the whole IR LED hat thing dead now? I know it's harder to make SEXXXY photo shoots out of someone wearing a ballcap with LEDs in the brim or what have you but that seemed to blow CCTV camera imagery without attracting hu-mon attention..
posted by beefetish at 11:09 AM on July 24 [4 favorites]


headspace: Ah shit, President Snow is gonna be pissed.

Only if you turn informer.

A licky boom boom down.
posted by dr_dank at 11:11 AM on July 24 [10 favorites]


It seems the goal of CV dazzle is to hide the fact that your face is a face. I don't really understand how these things work, but wouldn't it be easier/more subtle just to hide that it's your face, by changing the apparent position or size of features?
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 11:12 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


I wonder if you could just do a black stripe instead?

My iPhone easily recognizes this classic as a face.
posted by achrise at 11:22 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


This kind of thing will basically only work until it becomes popular.

If you can still tell it's a person and possibly who it is, then a computer can be trained to do the same. It's just a matter of time.

And let's not forget gait analysis. Do you have to wear dazzle pants too?
posted by delicious-luncheon at 11:24 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


If you put a local sports team logo into the black - and - white cheek patches, you have instantly de-weirded it for humans, as long as the logo doesn't interfere with the CV Dazzle.

Also you could make a lot of money off licensed sports dazzle AND fuck with stadiums' security systems at the same time.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:24 AM on July 24 [5 favorites]


Based on the facial recognition algorithms used by Google and Apple, which I suspect are comparable to most non-government surveillance products (due to the long product cycles in those markets, even if they start off more advanced than FB's tag-your-friends algo, FB is going to improve more quickly so on average I think they're probably on par), hats and sunglasses will definitely mess things up.

If you wear the same hat and sunglasses consistently, then I think the computer will probably start to match based on that, and might be able to track you, but I doubt it'll be able to match you back to some database like drivers licenses or ID card photos where you are shown without the hat/glasses on.

Of course, some places now have big signs saying that you must remove hats and sunglasses when you enter; virtually all the local banks in my area do this. I don't think it's because of automatic facial recognition, it's more just to ensure the security cameras get a good look at you if you decide to knock the place over. Wouldn't surprise me if Vegas casinos have similar rules, and that they'll extend the same rules to cover CV Dazzle makeup and stuff in the future.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:25 AM on July 24


delicious-luncheon: "And let's not forget gait analysis. Do you have to wear dazzle pants too?"

I'm thinking dazzle shoes, filled with dazzle rocks.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:30 AM on July 24 [2 favorites]


Perhaps of interest: this recent talk ("You've Lost Privacy, Now They're Taking Anonymity") at HOPE X by investigator Steve Rambam addresses the effectiveness of state-of-the-art facial recognition technology for about five minutes starting at 1:52:59. He claims that attempts at hiding like CV Dazzle, glasses, or even mostly covering your face are actually totally ineffective. This last point in particular really surprised me.

P.S. beefetish, this other talk addresses IR hats, etc. as well. Consensus is that they aren't nearly bright enough.
posted by caaaaaam at 11:36 AM on July 24 [5 favorites]


I am not growing bangs. No.

And like grumpybear69, I can't.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:38 AM on July 24


Did you know? You can opt out of all facial recognition software by writing "OPT OUT" across your face in permanent marker.
posted by oulipian at 11:44 AM on July 24 [7 favorites]


♫ "And I ran, I ran so far away
I just ran, I ran all night and day
I couldn't get away"♫
posted by iviken at 11:53 AM on July 24


Did you know? You can opt out of all facial recognition software by writing "OPT OUT" across your face in permanent marker.

Ha ha. What a load of crap. Everyone knows you have to use lemon juice.
posted by The Bellman at 11:56 AM on July 24 [4 favorites]


Did you know? You can opt out of all facial recognition software by writing "OPT OUT" across your face in permanent marker.

Freeman on the land CCTV?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:58 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


The policeman interviewed said that she thought it was brilliant. They had absolutely no description of his face other than the bright band-aid.

Like in that one scene from Bottle Rocket.
posted by gauche at 12:01 PM on July 24


I plan to defy image recognition software by simply dressing in increasingly elaborate high goth drag.


Yes.



That's why I'm doing it.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:15 PM on July 24 [6 favorites]


Including government agents, who have been giving closer scrutiny to people with any awareness of how to evade monitoring. A person wearing dazzle camo would likely be considered worth tracking until they reach their identifiable home.

Something that doesn't scale at all. If facial Dazzle becomes a thing with even 1% take up then this and the issue of people noticing you disappears.

On the beard thing the obvious next step is to either style your beard weird (wunderland waxed spikes on one side, dwarven braids on the other) or colour your beard in alternating contrasting colours. Or both. The key with dazzle is to break up edges and introduce false edges.
posted by Mitheral at 12:19 PM on July 24


Since I've let my beard* grow out a ways, FB's facial recognition algo has been failing to tag my face about 70% of the time. It's kind of nice, if utterly trivial from a privacy standpoint.

*symmetrical, not Wunderlander. Nerd.
posted by The Gaffer at 12:28 PM on July 24


man that HOPE X video caaaaaaam posted is really depressing. You can't just spangle your face, you also have to not walk, use a internet device, purchase, speak to, drive, or really anything. The only hope for avoiding panopticon is to become a hill billy hermit i guess.

This really is strange and exciting - who knows what the future will hold? I think we should talk more about the KGB and the Stasi and be prepared to resist that stuff. Technology changes, but people will remain the same. The NSA director's chief of staff's "special adviser" having info on what I do is much different than me having info on them. We should prep for snowdens *now*, to make it easy when it's needed.


(firefox wants to correct panopticon to anticipation)
posted by rebent at 12:47 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]


> ugliest t-shirt in the world

The way I remember it described in the book is different than he does in that interview. I thought the sigil was a way for the encoding/recording devices to know to discard those images. Not a snowcrash or corner case exploit, but something designed in for organized crime that paid their sigil bill and for corrupt govt. agents.

Which highlights the whole issue of how to do privacy & security. If you encrypt, but poorly, you've sent a signal that something is worth reading until/unless everybody is encrypting. If you encrypt well you've sent the "interestingness" signal and invited scrutiny using more conventional methods as well as things like traffic analysis and clear-metadata snooping.

"Do not track" means yes, fucking track me if you can get away with it, as long as it's still by default off on most browsers. Until most people are saying do not track and it becomes mundane, it's a useful signal.
posted by morganw at 12:53 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]


I have inserted a captcha code plugin on my face to foil the camera robots.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:56 PM on July 24 [2 favorites]


This might explain some things about a few sf movies.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:03 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]


Is the whole IR LED hat thing dead now?

In the sense that you have to have a better grade of camera setup,yea.

One case I worked had a guy dressed up in white with a brim hat that had LEDs under the hat. A nice purple glow and no good face shot. He walked up to the camera and looked up. Picture whited out for 10 frames and the correction circuity kicked in and bam! a nice hi-res full face shot for HR to ID him as an ex-employee (who was using another employee's badge)

The IR LEDs are fun in that you can walk into a mall, have security follow you around and at some point one of 'em will ask you about why your head is all weird on video. Then your fun begins claiming meditation is opening your 3rd eye and they are catching it on video/you are the living budda. Wear a long beard and robes you can try and pull of that you are Jesus back on earth.

Extra fun if you can record them - but most IR LED setups wreck the recording of others.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:05 PM on July 24 [7 favorites]


This might explain some things about a few sf movies.


Well, except that J.B.E. Zorg and Seneca Crane are more likely to be the ones doing the surveilling; and the ceremonial maquillage of the Naboobian monarch is probably better explained by the fact that the people of Naboo are all idiots.


With Pris, you might have a point.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:30 PM on July 24


I think it's a cool idea, and love the fact that it's bringing this emerging tech to the forefront of people's minds who might have been unaware of it, but I think the Navy would've totally foregone the Dazzle camouflage if they could have, say, made a battleship look like something it wasn't, especially if they could've made it look like something that also seemed friendly.

I mean, it would be a hell of a lot less obtrusive + much more effective to wear a life-like mask which triggers all the "Hey, look, a happy, conforming, worker drone!" algorithms in future facial recognition software with the bonus of sliding under the radar of passersby.

Conversely, I do think it would be really amusing to create a flash mob of a thousand people wearing matching masks which all specifically trigger whatever criteria would meet: "Angry, insane, terrorist, reactionary, ninja-trained, shoplifter, suicidal, eco-warrior, litterbug, scofflaw"
posted by Debaser626 at 1:31 PM on July 24


With Pris, you might have a point.

I was being tongue-in-cheek; I thought the examples of CV camouflage dovetailed nicely with some of the more outré hair and makeup designs I have seen onscreen. I spent a couple of minutes looking for images and social position of the character notwithstanding, it is easier to google pictures of Zorg and Crane than of some random extra in the background.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:35 PM on July 24


Debaser626 i think you have a good point. "is human: yes/no" won't be very useful information compared to "is rebent". What we gotta do is change the makeup of our faces - widen this, imbalance that - so that we don't match up to the file they have for us.
posted by rebent at 1:42 PM on July 24


The perfect solution to all of your privacy needs!

* Guaranteed to screw around with facial recognition software.
* At the same time, your friends can recognize you.
* Makes you look like a lighthearted guy.
* Draws chuckles from public instead of stares!
* Pays tribute to one of the greats!
posted by Roentgen at 1:45 PM on July 24 [6 favorites]


In Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly, it's called a "Scramble Suit."
posted by kenlayne at 2:21 PM on July 24 [2 favorites]


I think the Navy would've totally foregone the Dazzle camouflage if they could have, say, made a battleship look like something it wasn't, especially if they could've made it look like something that also seemed friendly.

Two things here:

1) This has been tried many times over. Q-ships are meant to look like merchants.

2) But this is a very bad thing in practice, because it leads to unrestricted warfare. If everything is a potential threat, then you'll have lots of Lusitania-like incidents where civilian ships get attacked because they might be enemies in disguise.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:24 PM on July 24 [2 favorites]


you'll have lots of Lusitania-like incidents where civilian ships get attacked because they might be enemies in disguise.

Errr you do understand they found military gear on the ship, right?
posted by rough ashlar at 3:32 PM on July 24


This needs to be a CSI episode set at Comic Con or a Masqued Ball. Original Vegas cast, of course.
posted by fshgrl at 3:55 PM on July 24


One must suppose that if civilians know about facial recognition and dazzle, the iris scans and lip print and fingernail recognition is already fiftten cycles old. We are exploring revealing breath and aura scans just to see how fashionable the hats and gas masks become. Work harder, boring humans we could not possibly care less about. We're tracking your pets. Make more cat pictures.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 4:47 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]


Errr you do understand they found military gear on the ship, right?

You've missed the point.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:06 PM on July 24


Then your fun begins claiming meditation is opening your 3rd eye and they are catching it on video/you are the living budda.

LOL. Back in the early 90's the wife and I did some serious gem and mineral trading and we had booths at a few shows. Back in those days a laser affordable to normal people was a big glowing glass tube and I happened to have one mounted in an acrylic box so the He-Ne waste glow could be admired. Now an interesting feature of laser light is that if you shine a laser at the milky base of a quartz crystal, it will diffuse throughout the crystal lighting it from within without much sign of where the light is actually coming from.

So at this one show I had my laser set up at one end of the booth where it just looked like a self-contained colored light thingamabob and a crystal in a little open stand at the other, and the beam illuminating the crystal from within. The beam, of course, is not visible in clean air. It was an impressive little effect. Presently these two girls come by showing a deep interest in the New Agey items and of course they notice the crystal, and one of them reaches up to pick it up -- and, with her hand blocking the beam, it promptly stops glowing.

"Damn," I sighed. "I spent three weeks meditating with that thing to get it to do that, and now I've got to start all over again."

After a few seconds of priceless crestfallen look I pointed out the laser and showed them how the trick was really done.
posted by localroger at 5:51 PM on July 24 [11 favorites]


Are there nicer patterns available?

I mean, he looks like he's in partial clownface.

Something with some nice geometric shapes or something maybe? Exciting colors?
posted by yonega at 7:58 PM on July 24


I thought the sigil was a way for the encoding/recording devices to know to discard those images. Not a snowcrash or corner case exploit, but something designed in for organized crime that paid their sigil bill and for corrupt govt. agents.

It was designed to break the recognition patterns themselves. If a deliberate backdoor signal was being designed, it'd likely be a lot less overt, something like a hyper-specific QR code badge disguised as a normal pattern/design or the like.
posted by FatherDagon at 7:50 AM on July 25 [1 favorite]


FISA Court Judges Keep Buying Verizon Stock; Wonder What They Know...
posted by jeffburdges at 1:26 PM on July 29


Senate Bill Would Ban Most Bulk Surveillance
Not that it'll ever become law, but hey.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:07 AM on July 30


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