Privacy visor thwarts facial recognition software
22 January 2013 16:34 GMT

Source: National Institute of Informatics

Researchers have found a way of using special spectacles to prevent facial recognition systems from working, albeit in a way that would draw significant attention to the user.

Associate Professor, Isao Echizen, at the National Institute of Informatics (NII) in Tokyo developed the new technology in conjunction with Professor Seiichi Gohshi of Kogakuin University to protect photographed subjects from the invasion of privacy caused by photographs taken in secret.

The pair of glasses dubbed a "privacy visor" was developed to thwart hidden cameras using facial-recognition software. The glasses feature an integrated series of circular lights inside that emit near infrared light, which is invisible to our eyes.

The infrared light distorts the features of the wearer when viewed by cameras. When the near-infrared LED in the privacy visor is not lit, people's faces can be seen in regular goggles and so facial detection is not affected. When the near-infrared LED in the privacy visor is lit, near-infrared rays are recorded as noise in the camera's imaging device. Because this noise appended to the facial image causes a considerable change in the amount of features that are referenced at facial detection, facial detection is misjudged and recognition of people's faces is prevented.

According to Prof Isao Echizen, "As a result of developments in facial recognition technology in Google images, Facebook et cetera and the popularisation of portable terminals that append photos with photographic information [geotags]… essential measures for preventing the invasion of privacy caused by photographs taken in secret and unintentional capture in camera images is now required."

Echizen has also stated that there have been offers received from companies which have plans to commercialize the glasses in the future.