I hate to break it to you, but a world where your every move can be tracked using facial recognition has gone from science fiction to an everyday reality. Facial recognition is common at airports, concerts, and stores, its in our schools, and you might even have to use it to file your taxes. Some people are willing to trade privacy for safety, but facial recognition has serious, built-in flaws that limit its accuracy. The technology may already be responsible for putting innocent people in jail.
But with a little ingenuity and a flexible definition of style, there are clothes and accessories you can wear that can confuse the algorithms and keep your face undetectable. I wouldn’t bet my life on them working in all circumstances, but some of these outfits have science backing their anti-face-rec claims.
Facial recognition is a tool that uses so-called “computer vision” technology to identify patterns. Sometimes it’s just recognising that there is a human face in an image, but it can be trained on the contours of individual faces to spot specific people as well.
Essentially, these dystopian duds work by introducing new patterns specially designed to distract or confuse the image recognition software, leaving you to go about your business undetectable. Some of them look pretty cool too.
Click through for our selection of some of the more interesting garments. Some of them are available for purchase, though some are just forward-looking art-objects.
Cap_able Sweatshirts and Shorts
Cap_able is a clothing company that’s perfect for the person who wants their clothes to say “I like the avant-garde, but I love my privacy.” Cap_able’s pricey knit-wear features various algorithmically tailored designs. According to the company, the sweater pictured above will make the software recognise you as a zebra, a giraffe, or nothing at all.
“Those who wear masks often tell us more truths than those with open faces.”
This privacy mask is an art piece called Surveillance Exclusion by artist and technologist Jip van Leeuwenstein. Leeuwenstein’s website says this mask is formed like a lens. It’s designed to make you unrecognizable to facial recognition software while still letting you interact with other people without losing your identity and expressions.
For the Frugal Shopper
Trying to save your privacy on a budget? This cheap option only runs about $US11 ($15), and it’s widely available. Artist and researcher Leric Dax put together this admittedly disturbing mask as part of a project called Cyberdazze Hyperface.
It’s a “collection of hyperreality defence equipment, specializing in anti-informatic and anti-cybernetic patterns and other strategic semiotic techniques which dazzle, daze, bamboozle, and befuddle artificial intelligence, neural networks, facial recognition, and other technologies of control.” Boy, if I had a penny for every time I’ve heard someone say that…
A Blob for Our Time
The Facial Weaponization Suite, another artwork, is meant as a form of protest. Artist Zach Blas developed these blobby masks as a statement about both surveillance and structural inequalities. The masks are made using a composite of face data from multiple people. One uses the biometric data of gay mens faces as a response to studies which linked facial features to sexual orientation.
Presumably you could wear a sock over you head for the same effect, but it just wouldn’t have that same pink pizazz.
Why Not Just Try A New Face?
Dutch designer Jing-cai Liu has one of the more innovative ideas on the list. Her wearable face projector beams an entirely new face on top of your own, making it tough to see for both you and the algorithm.
Scientific and Stylish
This giant privacy preserving patch is part of a research project from a university in Belgium. The researchers designed the pattern to scramble image recognition software, but the best part is that a giant square attached to your waist goes with every outfit, as you can see above.
These Masks Are Almost Too Good
A company called REAL-f makes hyper-realistic custom masks that are almost too good if you ask me. They can even make a smiling one with teeth, but the teeth cost extra. Two caveats: one, they are extremely expensive, and two, the company says “do not lick and/or eat it. Please be careful to keep it away from the month.”
Another entry backed by science comes to us from the Echizen Laboratory at the National Institute of Informatics in Japan. This visor has built in LEDs that stop facial recognition in its tracks. Presumably you could make one that’s a little more of a fashion forward, but we’ll take whatever protection from facial recognition we’ve got.
Nothing A Little Makeup Can’t Fix
Will these makeup designs from artist Adam Harvey in collaboration with the Dazzle Club actually stop facial recognition? No idea. If you’re going to have your privacy violated by history’s most invasive technology, though, you might as well look like a cyberpunk while you do it.
A Nice Splash Of Yellow For Our Privacy Nightmare
There aren’t any specific claims backing this $US65 ($90) “anti facial recognition” hoodie from Etsy, but who doesn’t like the colour yellow?