Hiding from Big Brother

I got pointed at CV Dazzle today. It’s fascinating how a bit of makeup or a hairstyle can make your face unrecognisable for computers.

Of course, LARPers already knew that – Facebook can rarely tell when someone in heavy makeup is a person, and the nose on some helmets functions in much the same way as a hairstyle in breaking up the face.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard of things like this. The common one I’ve seen is using a particular type of LED mounted around the face (in the brow of a cap or on glasses) to blind cameras by putting out light on a frequency that they’ll detect but other people won’t. I find the entire concept fascinating, and keep meaning to try some experiments with it.

My original thought about the makeup is that all they need to do is get a relatively clear shot and PhotoShop the annoying bits out. Of course the point isn’t to avoid that, but to avoid the automatic logging of your face and take control of your own privacy and when you get picked up by cameras – not to stop cameras seeing you at all.

That’s not to say it doesn’t have criminal potential. Blinding cameras so they can’t see your face (just a white blur where your face should be) certainly has criminal applications, but it also requires a degree of electronics knowledge, and is ultimately little more effective than a balaclava as people will look for the person who’s blinding cameras instead of the one in a mask.

Perhaps I should spend less time thinking about criminal opportunities, but I find it an interesting field to hypothesise in. As a thought exercise, there’s something compelling about finding ways around the Big Brother attitudes towards modern security from how to bypass airport security to how to stop computers recognising our faces. I’m not alone in this as both conversations with friends and the CV Dazzle and similar projects show.

Invisible was one of the other interesting projects that’s come out in recent years. It seemed to start off as an art project – something which worked but wasn’t meant to go commercial in any way despite the labelling like a product, but more recently it’s gone up for sale [1] and DIY guides have been published so you can make your own versions of the products. I was never that interested in it (interested enough to sign up for more information) but the concept of a product designed to erase your DNA samples was again something that intrigued me from the perspective of what can you do with it?

From a certain perspective, the idea that I’m in the public eye and being observed constantly has never bothered me. The idea that someone might monitor my emails (or this blog) for dangerous content and thus put me on some list bothers me a little more, but machine analysis of my life doesn’t intrinsically bother me or send me into fits of paranoia. I’m careful with what I do and what information I share but not to the extent of desiring these products as anything more than a curiosity. I am not a fantastic proponent of paranoid security, really, but I do see the advantages even if I don’t necessarily see the value in adding such to my own life.

This post has become rather more serious than I intended. Suffice to say that I enjoy finding out new ways to manipulate forensics and security systems, but I don’t particularly have a need for them outside of a hypothetical situation (except where it comes to LARPing, as my characters may be far more paranoid than I am).

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. limited run of 100, which reinforces the art project feel especially as it’s being sold by a museum