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Facial recognition companies and those looking to thwart them are currently locked into a big cat-and-mouse game. Despite being relentlessly pursued by police, politicians and technocrats, the increasing use of facial recognition technology in public spaces, workplaces and residential complexes remains a largely unpopular phenomenon.

So it’s no surprise that there is a lot of money to be made in the realm of ‘masking’ or dodging facial recognition technology – especially during times of COVID, when facial blankets are, literally, all the rage.

Take Fawkes, a camouflage app designed by researchers at the University of Chicago. It is named after Guy Fawkes, the 17th-century English revolutionary whose likeness was popularized as a symbol of anonymity and solidarity in V For Vendetta.

Fawkes works by subtly overlaying a celebrity’s facial information over your pixel-level selfies. To your friends, the changes will go completely unnoticed, but to an artificial intelligence trying to identify your face, you would theoretically look like Beyoncé.

Fawkes is not yet available to the general public, but if you’re looking for strategies to get under the facial recognition radar, don’t worry; this is just one example of how cover-up has entered the mainstream.

Other forms of concealment have emerged in the form of Tik Tok makeup trends, clothing that confuses recognition algorithms, tools that automatically scramble identifying features on the face, and much more. Since effective facial recognition relies on having as much information about human faces as possible, camouflage enthusiasts like Ben Zhao, professor of computer science at the University of Chicago and co-developer of Fawkes , hope to make facial recognition less effective against the rest of the world. population too. In an interview with the New York Times, Zhao said: “Our [team’s] the goal is to make Clearview [AI] go away.”

For the uninitiated, Clearview AI is a startup that recently became infamous for retrieving billions of public photos from the internet and using them privately to create the database for a facial recognition tool for women. law enforcement.

Clearview CEO Hoan Ton-That claimed that the tool would only be improved by these workarounds and that in the long run the cover-up is futile. If that sounds like a supervillain talk, you might understand why he has gained a reputation similar to Martin Shkreli or Ajit Pai with his company’s particularly aggressive approach to data collection.

It all looks like the start of a cyberpunk western: a man versus machine story. The game is stacked, the rules are undecided, and the world is watching. But so far, you can rest assured that no algorithm has completely outsmarted our own eyeballs… yet.

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