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How To Style Yourself To Fool The Machines

How to thwart the invasion of facial-recognition software using makeup.

They’re out there, somewhere—the machines, the drones. They’re lurking in dark corners, spying on us, analysing our faces with their facial-recognition software and reporting back to the mothership. Orwell would’ve been troubled with our present eradication of privacy and spread of secret surveillance, and he would’ve been even more troubled with the eminent arrival of such sci-fi ready products as digital contact lenses, which will enable yet more ways for you to be tracked and turned into a series of statistics.


But all hope isn’t lost because you can defeat those algorithms with a bit of makeup. Adam Harvey came up with CV Dazzle, an open-source anti-surveillance system that takes its name from the dazzle camouflage used on ships in WWII (just like SOFTlab’s R&Dazzle sculpture).

So rather than just used to make a statement, personal style and the way you put together a look could become a tool in the resistance against a totalitarian, dystopian future, providing you with anonymity in an increasingly surveyed world. The DIS Magazine story “How to Hide from Machines” gives some advice on how to make up your face to minimize recognition by OpenCV’s face detector.

If you want to avoid getting detected, don’t wear makeup that enhances facial features, like eye shadow around the eyes. Your aim is to create an “anti-face” or inverse. Harvey says, “In the animal kingdom, this inverse effect is known as countershading. A similar effect can be achieved by creating a partial inverse that targets key areas of the face. For example, darkening or obscuring areas that normally appear light, such as the nosebridge area or the upper cheek.”

When you make up your face all tribal-style, or artfully style your hair like a cyberpunk club kid emerging from a weekend-long underground rave, it breaks up the shape of your facial map, confusing the recognition software and rendering it unable to detect you. OK, so you might end up looking like a 1990s cyber warrior, but that’s the price you pay for freedom in the 21st century. And we have to say, not getting tagged in all those embarrassing late night Facebook photos is certainly worth it.

Images courtesy of DIS Magazine.