Facial Recognition Software


Aug 7, 2002
Reaction score
Facial Recognition: Beating Surveillance Cameras
ABC NewsBy NED POTTER | ABC News – Mon, Jan 9, 2012

Big Brother is watching you, though probably not in the ways most of us would imagine.

Sure, the cameras at banks or airport checkpoints may be on the lookout for robbers or would-be terrorists, using facial recognition technology to match pictures to existing ones. But private enterprise is busy as well.

If you tag a picture of yourself on Facebook or Google's Picasa, that image can be used to identify you in other pictures.

Adam Harvey says the technology is intruding on your right to privacy, and he's figured out some low-tech ways to outsmart them.

"Don't ask me about privacy, because I tend to talk too long about it," he said. "When we live in an environment where we're constantly being monitored, we cherish the right just to talk to someone face-to-face."

Harvey, a New York web designer, started a project called CV Dazzle when he was getting his master's degree at New York University in 2010. His objective: to show people how to hide in plain sight.

If you look at the images he generated, you'll get a sense of what he has in mind. Face-recognition software looks for key points on one's face, such as eyes, nose, and mouth, and where they meet and the distance between them. So he suggests simple ways to block them.

A spike of hair proved to be effective if it covered the area where the eyes, forehead and nose come together. Computer-vision software often looks for that spot, said Harvey, and will not detect a face without it.

Similarly, he said, a bit of face paint will confuse a computer. Harvey said he found that black geometric shapes, painted on one's cheeks, would prevent a machine from registering that it was looking at a face.

Of course, these are not things that most people would do to their faces -- but Harvey joked that in New York, where he lives, people with eccentric hairdos or makeup wouldn't stand out much. And they're more effective than hoodies or baseball caps pulled over one's face. In those cases the software is unnecessary; people simply look as if they have something to hide.

Of course, the issue of privacy is complicated, especially when you're talking about privacy in a public place. Richard Falkenrath, a principal with the Chertoff Group of security consultants who was an advisor on homeland security in the Bush administration, said facial recognition is not widely used in the United States except at places like security checkpoints. He looked at Adam Harvey's work and said it would be most useful in social media, not as a way to get around government security.

"There are clearly certain activities for which you have no reasonable expectation of privacy," Falkenrath said. "When you take out the garbage, people see you. When you walk down the street, people can take pictures of you."

Would work like Harvey's be helpful to criminals -- the very people who ought not to be able to hide? Falkenrath said he didn't think so, and Harvey said he did not intend it that way.

"This project is not about dodging the law, it's about adapting to living in surveillance societies," he said.

"In the next decade we'll have to figure out how to balance security with privacy and move on," Harvey said. "The research I'm doing is aimed at integrating fashion, privacy and technology to make real products that people can use."


King-Sized Canary
Aug 25, 2001
Reaction score
Might be useful in missing persons cases?


Gone But Not Forgotten
Aug 7, 2001
Reaction score
I've just got a new digital camera with face recognition software - it will focus on any face it detects in a scene, and, if there are more than one, it will focus on the nearest. Clever stuff, but not of much interest to me since most of my pics are landscapes.

But it goes further - if you set it up right, and it detects a face, it will not take a picture until it detects that face smiling! That's almost spooky! All this in a compact camera!!

Analogue Boy

The new Number 6
Aug 10, 2005
Reaction score
rynner2 said:
But it goes further - if you set it up right, and it detects a face, it will not take a picture until it detects that face smiling! That's almost spooky! All this in a compact camera!!
That's probably a result of Cameron's Happiness Index.

Some cameras won't take the picture if a person is blinking. Where that leaves photographing blind people (for example) I don't know.

I took my camera to the Ashmolean Museum during the holidays and was amused to watch the facial recognition system picking out the faces of the statues. Not many of those were smiling.


Special Branch
Sep 4, 2004
Reaction score
Lady Liberty’s Watching You

I wanted to write about face-recognition software considered for use at the statue. Here’s what happened.

The Statue of Liberty is getting a facelift, though the changes aren’t only cosmetic. An upgraded "state of the art" security system will help keep Lady Liberty safe when it reopens soon. But what does the system entail, and could it involve a controversial new face-recognition technology that can detect visitors’ ethnicity from a distance? I tried to find out—and a New York surveillance company tried to stop me.

Face recognition was first implemented at the Statue of Liberty in 2002 as part of an attempt to spot suspected terrorists whose mug shots were stored on a federal database. At the time, the initiative was lambasted by the American Civil Liberties Union, which said it was so ineffective that “Osama Bin Laden himself” could easily dodge it.

But the technology has advanced since then: Late last year, trade magazine Police Product Insight reported that a trial of the latest face-recognition software was being planned at the Statue of Liberty for the end of 2012 to “help law enforcement and intelligence agencies spot suspicious activity.” New York surveillance camera contractor Total Recall Corp. was quoted as having told the magazine that it was set for trial at the famed tourist attraction software called FaceVACS, made by German firm Cognitec. FaceVACS, Cognitec boasts in marketing materials, can guess ethnicity based on a person’s skin color, flag suspects on watch lists, estimate the age of a person, detect gender, “track” faces in real time, and help identify suspects if they have tried to evade detection by putting on glasses, growing a beard, or changing their hairstyle. Some versions of face-recognition software used today remain ineffective, as investigators found in the aftermath of the Boston bombings. But Cognitec claims its latest technology has a far higher accuracy rating—and is certainly more advanced than the earlier versions of face-recognition software, like the kind used at the Statue of Liberty back in 2002. (It is not clear whether the face-recognition technology remained in use at the statue after 2002.)
Full Story