How to Hide from Facial Recognition Software with FawkesJanuary 4, 2022
I recently wrote about constructing a fake persona to hide your identity online. I’ll admit that for most people, it’s a lot of trouble to go through. In most cases, it’s completely over the top. Creating a fake person from scratch in order to preserve your privacy is the domain of the paranoid.
You want to be able to live a normal life — to hang out on social media with your friends and family and occasionally post photos of trips to the beach, social gatherings (when they resume), and other life events — without the images being scraped and added to a facial recognition database.
It’s a real problem, and since social media came into existence, service providers and other shady third parties have been using your data any way they please.
That said, because facial recognition features are so easy to use, many people want to use them. Being able to easily find photos of specific individuals from your tens of thousands of snaps is kind of useful — although you should probably consider how often you actually use this feature.
Facial Recognition Is a Risk to You
The potential benefits of automatic recognition from a snapshot or video feed are limited: You can unlock the front door to your house, use your face to pay for your subway ride in a number of cities, and easily find images of yourself in galleries and albums.
And that’s basically it. Facial recognition technologies don’t treat you as the user — you are just a data subject, and the real advantages are for organizations that sell access to services that can pinpoint a person from an image snatched on CCTV.
And while facial recognition may not allow you to purchase goods in stores, that doesn’t mean that the stores aren’t using it for their own ends.
Loyalty programs, personalized marketing, and in-store security all use facial recognition in order to get you to spend more, and ensure that you aren’t stealing the stock.
From the point of view of a retailer, it’s highly desirable to recognize known or suspected shoplifters as soon as they sidle through the sliding doors, but for everyone else, it’s intrusive and an invasion of privacy.
And if you think masks will work as a way of keeping your mugshot off the database, you can think again. As early as May 2020, retail oriented security-as-a-service providers, such as Facewatch, had updated their algorithms to recognize individuals wearing Covid face coverings, and they are currently working to “support persons adhering to religious customs such as niqabs to be provided an equal user experience when engaging with identification technology.”
Even if you don’t mind personalized advertising, and would never dream of lifting a can of baked beans without paying the cashier, that doesn’t mean that facial recognition technology is in any way ethical, or that the organizations that use it are acting in your best interests.
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