Enter the maze

How to vanish

by Peter W McOwan, Queen Mary University of London

A gridded face. From PIXABAY.com

Face recognition software is everywhere. It's usually powered by an Artificial Intelligence method called 'deep learning'. In deep learning the program is exposed to thousands of images and slowly learns what the features are that make up a human face, or even a particular individual's face. The computer extracts components from the image, such as length of the nose or width of the eyebrow. However, it has no real idea about faces. That differs from we humans who seem to store a portrait of the joined up structure of the face.

What happens when face recognition software detects something without the expected pattern of bits of a face? Nothing! To the computer it is not a face, so "nothing to see here". Enter computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University. They've developed simple cardboard glasses which are covered in bright, seemingly chaotic patterns. They may not be stylish but the patterns confuse face recognition software. All the right bits are in the wrong order, so the software reports ... nothing. The team have even managed to create glasses which change your identity as calculated by the face recognising programs, putting other people's bits where your bits are. Neither of the types of glasses fool a human observer. They just see a familiar face with funky glasses, but, in a world where face recognition is increasingly common, the glasses might provide a way to preserve your privacy from the artificial gaze of the machines.