New glasses make you invisible to facial recognition technology

Chuck Bednar for – @BednarChuck

Best known as a freeware Internet security and personal protection software developer, Czech Republic-based AVG has announced a new product designed to help prevent facial recognition technology from determining a person’s identity.

The company is calling them “invisibility glasses,” and according to Gizmodo, the new eyewear utilizes a set of infrared LEDs located around the eyes and nose that can only be seen by a digital camera to keep facial recognition software from getting a lock on your facial features.

[STORY: New invisibility cloak could help surgeons, drivers]

The LED lights on the device, which is currently in the concept stage, obscures those regions of the face when a person or computer attempts to take his or her picture.

facebook facial recognition

Credit: AVG

Furthermore, the glasses are covered in a retro-reflective material that directs the light given off by a camera flash back at the camera itself, causing the photograph to be overexposed, the website added.

retro relfective

Credit: 3M

Protecting your identity in the digital age

AVG unveiled the new identity-protecting specs at the Pepcom event in Barcelona, Spain prior to the Mobile World Congress. The glasses were developed by AVG Innovation Labs in order to help “protect your visual identity in the digital age,” the company said in a statement.

The glasses, they explained, could help prevent smartphone users from snapping and uploading unwanted and potentially embarrassing photos of you. They can also prevent your likeness from being captured and featured in Google StreetView or other big-data projects.

[VIDEO: Damn the torpedoes: US Navy approves invisible laser weapon for USS Ponce]

The invisibility glasses could also keep organizations from using technology such as Facebook’s DeepFace to identify your face, then use other databases to cross-reference it in order to find out more about you without your permission.

Their kryptonite

AVG admits that the system is not perfect. It could be foiled if a cellphone’s camera sensors have a strong enough infrared filter to eliminate wavelengths beyond the visible spectrum, and the retro-reflective material only works with flash photography. Otherwise, not enough light will be sent back to distort the camera sensors.

Also, a camera with higher dynamic range can be used to minimize the darkening of the subject, the company added. Finally, as Gizmodo pointed out, the eyeglasses do nothing to hide the body of the person wearing them, nor does it obscure what is going on in the rest of the image. In other words, there may be other ways in which you could still be identified.

[STORY: Language can help our eyes see invisible things]

“At this stage, invisibility glasses, including those we will be displaying at Pepcom are just a proof of concept,” AVG said. “Rather than designing a product for market release, tech experts are investigating how technology can adapt to combat the daily erosion of our privacy in the digital age. Don’t expect to see them for sale any time soon!”

“There’s no word on if or when AVG plans to put these glasses into production, but hopefully if the company plans to go ahead with the design it will find a way to make those LEDs a little smaller and a little more subtle,” added Gizmodo. “And here’s to hoping the glasses won’t need a software update every other day like the company’s antivirus software.”


Follow redOrbit on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, Instagram and Pinterest.