Playing peek-a-boo with face recognition software
In 2011 SETUP helped people who visited the Beschaving Festival to avoid being recognised by handing out fake moustaches. This year we experimented with facepaint to make people unrecognisable to face recognition systems. After all, privacy is important: you can have lots more fun when you're incognito.
Unfortunately, if you're a Facebook user, you'll have noticed that the people at Facebook don't quite understand the value of privacy (or so they claim of course, if private data really was worthless Facebook wouldn't be worth so much money). They use clever software to automatically recognise faces in photos.
And it's not just Facebook, this sort of software is everywhere. For example, some digital camera's have smile detection. And camera's in Dutch trams use it to see if anyone wanted by the police is getting on board. Some company's in Japan take it even further.
Luckily, all software can be hacked or fooled. And during the festival we explored how we could make faces unrecognisable with with facepaint.
Artist Adam Harvey helped us to get started. In Adam's CV Dazzle project he used simple facepaint to paint strange shapes on people's faces. By adding these shapes, camera's get confused: is this a person I'm looking at? Huh?
Marije to the resque
So we asked make-up artist Marije de Wit to spend an afternoon painting people's faces, using a laptop with face-recognition software to see if she could fool the system. After all, you can dive into the black box and explore how the software works, but you can also just try and 'see what works', through trial and error. You don't have to be a nerd to protect yourself.
It turned out to be quite hard to do. Things that other people claimed worked well didn't work so well for us. We ended up using a lot of diagonal lines, that seemed to decently frazzle our software. To find out all the details check out Marije's detailed post on her own blog.
We want to thank Adam, Marije and all the brave and/or drunk volunteers in this experiment.