The Faceless Recognition System Doesn't Have to See Your Face to Know Who You Are


To maintain their digital anonymity, people have gone to great measures to hide from facial recognition.

Like this:


And this:


The first image is a mask aimed at obfuscating your face in a well, obvious way. The second image shows eyewear that uses near-infrared LEDs to jam facial recognition systems.

These people may be on to something. According to recent research, a system can still identify you even if most of our photos are untagged, blurred or obfuscated. It's called Faceless Recognition System. 

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Informatics found that just "a handful of images" of you on social media is enough to reveal your identity online. Using context clues like body shape and surroundings, the researchers' Faceless Recognition System could recognize people "far better than chance level" using only an average of 1.25 tagged photos of a person, according to the paper

Using an average of 1.25 tagged images of a person's fully visible face, the system can identify an obfuscated image of the same person with 69.6% accuracy, Motherboard reported, reaching 91.5% accuracy with 10 fully visible images of someone's face.

"From a privacy perspective, the results presented here should raise concern," the researchers write in the paper. "We show that, when using state-of-the-art techniques, blurring a head has limited effect."

So what can we do to hide? You're better off with untagged photos than censoring your face. "For a user, it is a better privacy policy to make sure no tagged heads exist for the same event, than blacking out all his heads in the event," the researchers note in the paper. 

But if you already have two photos of your shining face posted on Facebook or Instagram, your efforts are futile, according to this new research. It's likely that you do: Humans are basically photo-producing machines right now. As of 2014, we took 657 billion photos a year. Or, as the Atlantic points out, there are more photos taken every two minutes than have ever existed in the past 150 years. A scary thought. 

It may be too late for the nearly 2 billion monthly active users on Facebook and Instagram combined, but for the next generation, consider investing in one of these creepy anti-facial-recognition masks. 

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