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This Makeup Makes You Invisible to Face Scanners

By Wendy Rodewald-Sulz / July 24, 2014

Photo: via The Atlantic

 
If you’ve posted a photo to Facebook lately, you may have been creeped out by the network’s ability to recognize and automatically tag your face and those of your friends. Facial recognition technology is getting smarter and more pervasive these days, but it turns out there are actually ways to render yourself unidentifiable on camera, all by using hair and makeup.
 
The name for this disguise is CV dazzle (CV stands for “computer vision”), and a writer for The Atlantic tried it out while going about his daily life in Washington, DC for a few days. 
 
He explains, “The idea behind CV dazzle is simple. Facial recognition algorithms look for certain patterns when they analyze images: patterns of light and dark in the cheekbones, or the way color is distributed on the nose bridge—a baseline amount of symmetry. These hallmarks all betray the uniqueness of a human visage. If you obstruct them, the algorithm can’t separate a face from any other swath of pixels.”
 
The article includes a link to a project created by artist Adam Harvey, who developed the idea of CV dazzle a few years ago as a student at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. His creations are like runway beauty looks from a weird, digital future world (or some of the more out-there shows at couture week).
 

CV dazzle looks from Adam Harvey's portfolio.

 
So what happens when you pair your standard business casual clothes with black and white face paint for a few days in our nation’s capital? While the makeup camouflages you from facial recognition technology, the writer learned it makes you even more conspicuous to other people IRL:
 
“You can never forget you have it on. People glance at your face, their eyes lingering as you wait on escalators, pass on sidewalks, sit in museums or restaurants. It’s more than a quick double-take or turn of the head: Their eyes lock, and they stare. For a while. You’re in costume, basically, as out of place as a mascot walking down the street. You are anything but invisible.”
 
Who knew going incognito could be so stressful?