back to article Accessories to crime: Facial recog defeated by wacky paper glasses

Researchers armed with some nifty algorithms and a set of paper glasses frames have found a way to trick facial recognition systems. Users can either evade being recognized – or more interestingly, impersonate another individual – with up to at least 80 per cent success rate, the researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's your civic duty.

    Downloadable, printable file. ASAP.

    Please.

    Anons for obvs.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: It's your civic duty.

      Unfortunately this trick only works for the particular network trained by the researchers. Or does it?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's your civic duty.

        I've still got no idea just how good this technique is, as I'm struggling to parse "with up to at least 80 per cent success rate".

        1. lafnlab
          Alien

          Re: It's your civic duty.

          Hmm. It reminds me of the Douglas Adams quote, "...almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea...”

          Maybe it's an equation for the Improbability Drive.

          1. Preston Munchensonton
            Pint

            Re: It's your civic duty.

            Hmm. It reminds me of the Douglas Adams quote, "...almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea...”

            Maybe it's an equation for the Improbability Drive.

            Nearly spot on, but clearly this part of the studies in finite probability.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's your civic duty.

      The app that generates the requisite gradients would be nice to have! Could be endless amusement at carnival. I wonder what plod would make of 10000 Elvises attending next year B-)

  2. EvilGardenGnome

    Very useful

    A number of jurisdictions have laws against wearing masks for the purposes of evading identification. Something like this means that you must actually be identified rather than merely sorted by a computer AND you are not doing anything to justify questionable detention.

    This is VERY welcome research.

    1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      Re: Very useful

      Unless the case law has changed really recently, you are not required to provide identification under the Constitution, although they aren't required to let you go on your way if they "have reason" to hold you.

      1. MrDamage

        Re: Very useful

        > "you are not required to provide identification under the Constitution"

        Unfortunately, the plod have a way around this. Without providing ID, and thus proof of a residence, they can make your life a misery by slapping you with vagrancy charges, thus forcing you to cough up your ID.

        1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

          Re: Very useful

          Well, of course they will! They will always find at least one irrational reason somewhere in the law books as I pointed to above. No point in my even trying. They've got my picture, with or without glasses, fingerprints and DNA. I am rather familiar with the police force not for criminal reasons but just talk to them as people (ditto postmen, firefighters, EMT's, ambulance workers, UPS,..., basically anyone that usually gets shitty treatment most of the time), and a security clearance from Hell. I'd be an absolute idiot to even litter let alone commit a "real" crime!

    2. John Tserkezis

      Re: Very useful

      "A number of jurisdictions have laws against wearing masks for the purposes of evading identification."

      Visit any optometrist in town here who on-sells "name brand designer frames", and you'll see some of their designs are not that far off.

      But don't worry, if you visit the post office next door to get passport photos done, they will demand you remove your glasses before they take photos.

      It seems that even what's considered ordinary glasses are enough to fool those systems.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Very useful @John Tserkezis

        Interestingly, I recently had to get a renewal of my passport at very short notice, so I arranged a visit to the closest passport office.

        When I was being interviewed (part of the quick application process), I commented about taking glasses off for the photograph, and the interviewer said that it is acceptable to wear glasses in the photograph, as long as the eyes could be clearly seen through the lenses (i.e. no dark glasses, small or half-frames that obscured the eyes themselves, or heavy reflections off the lenses).

        I went back and read the passport application, and indeed, this is what it says.

        But I'm sure that the jobs-worth post-office counter people who do the pre-check would not accept a photo with glasses, though. Last time I used the post-office passport checking service for one of my children, it took me three attempts to get photographs they would accept, and that was without glasses,

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

          Re: Very useful @John Tserkezis

          I just had this in reverse. My old passport photo had me wearing glasses, and the damn automated gates almost never let me through (I think my average was about once in 6-8 attempts or so, and usually only after several seconds of pondering on it's part).

          Just renewed and deliberately got my photos done sans specs. And so far (about 5-6 attempts) they've let me through every single time, usually after only a second or two deliberation.

          Given I wear specs all the time, I guess my career as an evil criminal mastermind and world supervillain isn't going to be hampered by face recognition ;-)

  3. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Plausibillity

    Weird and wonderful glasses need to become a fashion

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Pint

      Re: Plausibillity

      I fancy that perhaps they just did! B-)

    2. hplasm Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Plausibillity

      "Weird and wonderful glasses need to become a fashion"

      To the '80s mobile!

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Plausibillity

      Hopefully it won't be necessary to dress like Dame Enda Everage as well.

      (Edit: Someone beat me to it below.)

  4. Chris Miller

    "ways to trick the system inconspicuously"

    Your definition of inconspicuous is clearly different from mine :)

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: "ways to trick the system inconspicuously"

      Your definition of inconspicuous is clearly different from mine :)

      "I don't know what you're talking about Possums, they look perfectly fine to me!"

      -Dame Edna Everage

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: "ways to trick the system inconspicuously"

      "Conspicious" is throwing a satchel charge into the elevator shaft of the datacenter where this runs.

    3. DougS Silver badge

      Re: "ways to trick the system inconspicuously"

      It becomes 'inconspicuous' if those frames become a fad, so enough people are wearing them. Get a few celebrities to start wearing them and soon you'll see them everywhere!

      1. 's water music Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: "ways to trick the system inconspicuously"

        Get a few celebrities to start wearing them and soon you'll see them everywhere!

        How would you know that a sleb had started wearing them since you would no longer be able to recognise them?

      2. Anonymous Blowhard

        Re: "ways to trick the system inconspicuously"

        "Get a few celebrities to start wearing them"

        Like Elton John maybe?

  5. Brian Miller
    Terminator

    Mr Potatohead

    So all we have to do to defeat enslavement when the robotic revolution comes, we just need to dress up like Mr. Potatohead and they'll never be able to recognize us.

    Let's get the stuff ready: hypnotic pinwheel glasses, Spock or Yoda ears, candy lips, goofy mustaches, and we'll be set!

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: Mr Potatohead

      If humans have similar blind spots then .....

      "Instructions for hiding in plain sight on Planet of the Simian Freakshow III"

      (WARNING: only works in certain regions where we have engineered ingrained psychological responses, other regions remain problematic when using described procedure)

      1) Print out the following frames to encircle you anterior and lateral eye sets

      2) WEAR AT ALL TIMES

      3) Inhabitants will mistake you for a what they call a "flaming drag queen" and behave nonchalantly

    2. KroSha

      Re: Mr Potatohead

      It's either that or Mega-City One Blob fashion: http://dreddreviews.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/complete-case-files-06.html

  6. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Opttional extras

    Would adding a psychedelic printed beard and moustache help raise the fail rate to 100% (particularly when worn by women). And wearing an entire printed suit could well blow the AI completely.

    1. PNGuinn
      Joke

      Re: Opttional extras

      Go the whole hog - wear a psychedelic dayglow mandlebrot patterned burqa as well.

      You can't take inconspiciousity too far these days.

  7. Ole Juul Silver badge

    criminal tricks

    For impersonation, the identity must be recognized as someone the system already knows.

    So if someone isn't in the system yet, you could give them an interesting history for when they do show up.

  8. Chrissy

    Dazzle

    Would be interesting to see what "Dazzle" makeup would do to facial recog systems (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dazzle_camouflage).

    Or an animal design facepaint... "Sarge, it's that cat from the last demo again"

    As it would be makeup, legally it's NOT a mask so I'd like to see a prosecution system bring a case of "wearing a mask to evade identification".... "what mask, officer?"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        This Dazzle stuff absolutely needs to be integrated to the resistance fighters' camouflage in the next Hollywood dystopian future film that will undoubtedly come out soon.

        1. Artaxerxes

          Pretty sure most of the Dystopias and scifi films from the 70's and 80's had this sort of thing in.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
            Big Brother

            Dystopian 70s == Pedestrian Tenners

            We ARE in John Brunner's and J.G. Ballard's Worlds, and none of PKDs esoteric exit doors to another reality exist.

            Completely tangentially, here is a pretty good review of "Elysium".

            Maybe I will grab that movie off the 'Net.

  9. DNTP

    If this ever becomes a "thing"

    Then the police authorities will simply follow their usual standard operating procedure and declare it arbitrarily illegal under a vague interpretation of existing laws. Then they will find someone wearing the glasses/dazzle makeup/whatever who is unsavory enough not to garner public sympathy, prosecute him, and therefore set a legal precedent to apply in the future.

    This is America- the country where some towns ban baggy pants, or can legally use them as a valid reason to stop-and-frisk.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: If this ever becomes a "thing"

      I'm not from America, but I do think that baggy pants do merit a good stop-and.frisk.

      1. Blitheringeejit
        IT Angle

        Free the baggy pants pair!

        I think that's a little harsh on the male population of Turkey, and similarly toasty places. Hot climate + baggy pants = good!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: If this ever becomes a "thing"

      Alternatively the facial recognition neural nets will be trained to totally ignore glasses.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Alternatively the facial recognition neural nets will be trained to totally ignore glasses

        I don't think that is possible. Glasses, by definition, cover the eyes and impact the shape of the nose, and that entire region seems to be critical in recognizing someone. Disregarding glasses means not analyzing that zone and that will likely render recognition basically impossible.

        Until the day we have AI that can guess how someone looks without glasses, that is. Then we're toast.

    3. earl grey Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: If this ever becomes a "thing"

      They can stop and frisk my baggy pants any day they want...they'll never find anything...

      errr....what i meant was....

  10. MD Rackham

    Where Can I Get...

    ...the ones that make you look like Milla Jovovich.

    I want to get a pair for the Mrs. for her birthday. Or maybe for mine....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where Can I Get...

      You may have misunderstood what this is about....

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Humans doing facial recognition can recognize a given famous face, even when presented in cartoonish, exaggerated, distorted caricature. Computers aren't doing facial recognition the same way. Not even close.

  12. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    New hipster glasses fad

    In 3....2....1....

  13. toughluck
    Devil

    Solution is simple

    Shoot on sight.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Solution is simple

      The new model National Bird will get you first.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Solution is simple

      That's your solution for everything.

      1. toughluck

        Re: Solution is simple

        Works every time. If it's not broken, don't fix it.

  14. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Look at the differences between the photos

    Our dystopian future is Brazil (the film).

  15. Natalie Gritpants

    I knew these two were terrorists

    Timmy Mallet and Edna Evarage

  16. James 51 Silver badge
    Coat

    So Dennis Taylor was just fashion forward then?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The ugliest t-shirt in the world...

    Reminds me of a plot device in William Gibson's Zero History

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: The ugliest t-shirt in the world...

      Woah I forgot all about that. Zero Histoy was an acceptably good read. 7 years ago, already.

      A Google Shufty reveals Ugliest T-Shirt is now a designer thing

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

        Re: The ugliest t-shirt in the world...

        Oh yeah ?

  18. Known Hero

    self defeating

    .... Would not wearing lurid coloured glasses make you kind of stand out and that much easier to track ?

    As my wife once pointed out when I planned on putting up cctv to protect a work van overnight, "what if they wear a mask"?

    pretty valid point.

  19. John Sturdy
    Boffin

    Still better...

    We need e-paper spectacle frames, so appearance can be changed on the fly.

  20. Dieter Haussmann

    http://laura.moncur.org/wp-content/photos/Cool-Halloween-Makeup-6-450x600.jpg

  21. A K Stiles
    Windows

    Hmmm

    I'm about to make a trip from the UK to Germany and back but I've grown something that nearly passes for a beard since I last went through an airport... I've been wondering how the automated bio-metric immigration machine will cope or if it will punt me off to deal with a real person? For that matter I also sometimes wear glasses (don't remember if they ask you to take them off for those machines?)

    icon is a picture of me with a beard... never going to get that beer can through airport security though!

    1. Kiwi Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Hmmm

      icon is a picture of me with a beard... never going to get that beer can through airport security though!

      Beer can? I always thought it was some homeless dude sniffing some sort of largeish glue container.. After all it is the "Windows" icon!

      Guess we had, different er, "misspent youth" experiences....

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Hmmm

        They'll ask you to remove them unless you're wearing them in your passport photograph.

        If you are, then forget the machines and just go to the manned desk as the machine won't stand a hope in hell of recognizing you most of the time (take it from me as a frequent flyer and glasses wearer who had them on his passport photo for the last 10 years until a recent passport renewal).

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Hmmm

        "Guess we had, different er, "misspent youth" experiences...."

        I thought he was eating a salad baguette. I guess my youth wasn't mis-spent enough.

  22. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Timmy Mallet

    I wonder what his glasses would be picked up as

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Timmy Mallet

      Incontinentia Buttocks.

  23. Nimby
    Thumb Down

    Department of the Obvious

    Wow. I am shocked. Utterly, utterly, flabbergasted. I will never see life in the same way again.

    Or ... not.

    So a study finds that wearing ridiculous glasses fools some face recognition software. Software that literally cannot even hold up to a simple smile. (As evinced by all of the frowny-faced passport photos out there these days.) Next thing you know they'll tell you that growing a beard or even trimming your eyebrows (or not if you already do) might also throw off facial recognition software.

    And I will be amazed. Astonished. Truly.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Department of the Obvious

      Once you get personalized ads stuffed up your arse while walking (rather stiff-legged) through a passenger lounge, you will not be so dismissive.

      Or maybe your mug got erroneously uploaded to one of the "deplorables" databases "by error" (terror database, paedophile database, non-credit-worthy database, politically obnoxious non-progressive people database, etc..)

      > Software that literally cannot even hold up to a simple smile.

      Been sleeping under a rock lately?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Superman was right!

    Glasses can fool... AI.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Superman was right!

      Raj: So, as Hannah Montana, Miley was a world-famous pop star. But then she would take off her wig and go to school like a normal girl. Which, I don’t have to tell you, at that age, is its own headache.

      Sheldon: That’s preposterous. How would she go unrecognized just by wearing a wig?

      Raj: But you’re okay with Superman concealing his identity with a pair of glasses?

      Sheldon: He doesn’t just put on a pair of glasses. He combs back his curlicue and affects a mild-mannered personality.

  25. Tikimon Silver badge

    Pixels or Values?

    I wonder if their vaunted pixel patterns have anything to do with it. Face recognition works in large part by using light or dark areas to figure out a face is there and which parts are where. Dazzle makeup works by breaking up the light/dark areas. Take a look at the example photos. Is it possible that the glasses are simply adding light areas around the eyes and nose? Instead of magic pixel patterns, the effect may be due to simple value changes.

    If so, then bright, thick-framed glasses will do it, complex pixel maps not needed.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Pixels or Values?

      It seems the pixel patterns just kick the neural network in exactly the right way (Fist of the North Star style -- Disclaimer: Extreme Violence) so that it ends up in another classification region with no particular reason instead of the correct region into which the other features of the image would lead it according to how it has been "trained". NNs are stupid like that.

      See also Is AlphaGo Really Such a Big Deal? (formerly titled Why AlphaGo is Really Such a Big Deal), where we read (in the vicinity of the shaggy dog example image):

      In actual fact, our existing understanding of neural networks is very poor in important ways. For example, a 2014 paper described certain “adversarial examples” which can be used to fool neural networks. The authors began their work with a neural network that was extremely good at recognizing images. It seemed like a classic triumph of using neural networks to capture pattern-recognition ability. But what they showed is that it’s possible to fool the network by changing images in tiny ways. For instance, with the images below, the network classified the image on the left correctly, but when researchers added to it the tiny perturbations seen in the center image, the network misclassified the apparently indistinguishable resulting image on the right.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Star Trek beat them to it already

    The people from Star Trek next generation already beat them to this with their optical Borg virus.

    http://de.memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Datei:Borg-Virus.jpg

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