In a world stuffed with cameras, data hoovering apps, the NSA, and Google Street View, it is no wonder that there is an increasing amount of ambivalence over surveillance, which facial recognition software scrambling clothing has made its debut.
Created in collaboration with Hyphen Labs, HyperFace is the brainchild of Adam Harvey, a Berlin-based artist and privacy researcher, uses multiple patterns printed on clothing and fabrics that resemble rough nose, eyes and mouth features of human faces to confuse facial recognition systems.
“HyperFace works by providing maximally activated false faces based on ideal algorithmic representations of a human face. These maximal activations are targeted for specific algorithms.
“Instead of seeking computer vision anonymity through minimising the confidence score of a true face, HyperFace offers a higher confidence score for a nearby false face by exploiting a common algorithmic preference for the highest confidence facial region. In other words, if a computer vision algorithm is expecting a face, give it what it wants.”
It is an interesting physical solution to a rather virtual problem, but Harvey notes that completely defeating facial recognition algorithms is both a technical and aesthetic problem before everyday clothing and fabrics become effective individual privacy shields.
While this is an interesting application of technology to defeat another form of technology, it is worth noting that many people share so much incidental personal information online on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram they effectively make a lot of their everyday activity easily viewable by any member of the public with access to a web browser, which is probably more invasive to privacy than surveillance systems controlled by the authorities.