back to article Boffins' blur-busting face recognition can ID you with one bad photo

Scientists have found a way to accurately identify completely obscured faces using recognition systems trained on only a handful of well-lit photos. The work by Seong Joon Oh, Rodrigo Benenson, Mario Fritz, and Bernt Schiele of Max Planck Institute in Saarbrücken, Germany, finds faces can be recognised with up to 91.5 per cent …

  1. frank ly

    Amazing

    "...accurately identify completely obscured faces using recognition systems trained on only a handful of well lit photos."

    So, if I wear a thick black bag on my head, it can still recognise my face?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Amazing

      If not than the burka becomes a fashion statement.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Amazing

        You'd need to mesh your eyes as well, then, or figure out extrasensory perception. I hear they've been making progress there, too, based on shape, distance, node ridge, etc.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Amazing

        "The Faceless Person Recogniser is up to 69.6 per cent accurate when working from just one image."

        US Drone strikes can happen if they are 65% satisfied you are a viable target so...

        1. Roq D. Kasba

          Re: Amazing

          Anyone else thinking of that scene in Four Lions?

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Amazing

      "So, if I wear a thick black bag on my head, it can still recognise my face?"

      Yes. With an accuracy between 14.7% and 91.5%, depending on the quality of the picture used to identify a person AND of the quality of the pictures and additional data used to train the system.

      Just skimmed the paper from the PDF-link in the article (must read it properly over the weekend), quite interesting. What puzzled me at first was the 'face recognition' - it doesn't just look at your face, i.e. uses portrait pictures. The training phase uses any kind of picture - portrait, full body, part of a scene/crowd, etc and also any extra data that might come with the picture like tagging. The recognition phase also works with any kind of picture.

      Which explains it; if I know someone quite well I can recognize them without being able to see their face from the way they walk etc. Plus I factor in other data on a non-conscious level, like would I expect too see person X at location Y at that time etc.

      The system described is used to identify persons across social networks via the pictures posted - even if their faces are blurred or blacked out. I can see this working with live feeds from CCTV cameras as well. In a way those are also tagged (location, date, time). Combined with a database of pictures and additional data like, say, roaming profiles, age, height, known associates, etc your shades & fake beard won't cut it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Amazing

        can recognize them without being able to see their face from the way they walk etc. Plus I factor in other data

        OK. So rather than a handkerchief over my face, I need a motorcycle helmet, egg boxes under my outer clothing, shoe inserts to fake my height, different in each shoe to give me a limp and unnatural gait, to take a different route to work each day, and avoid my mates?

        HaHa! Theresa May, your Cheltenham Stasi won't be tracking me!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Dressed like that, GCHQ won't be following you

          But a small troop of jeering children might

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Dressed like that, GCHQ won't be following you

            But a small troop of jeering children might

            I'm used to that.

            "Mam! Mam! It's the smelly, mumbling weirdo again, can I follow him and throw stones?"

            "Of course, dear, but don't tread in anything horrible he leaves on the pavement"

        2. Simon Harris
          Gimp

          Re: Amazing

          "...and avoid my mates?"

          Dress like that and I think your mates are more likely to avoid you!

          An alternative disguise ---------------->

      2. Stevie

        Re: Amazing

        Which explains it; if I know someone quite well I can recognize them without being able to see their face from the way they walk etc. Plus I factor in other data on a non-conscious level, like would I expect too see person X at location Y at that time etc.

        And when you get it wrong (everyone has been mistaken for someone else at some point in their lives) you and the other person laugh it off.

        Try that with the security services when they come a-knockin' on the strength of a computer-enhanced photograph.

    3. arthoss

      Re: Amazing

      Maybe, if it can identify your gait.

      1. breakfast

        Re: Amazing

        Certainly it should be able to tell by the way you use your walk you're a womans man no time to talk.

  2. PhillW

    "Boffins' blur-busting face recognition can ID you with one bad photo

    Scientists have found a way to accurately identify completely obscured faces using recognition systems trained on only a handful of well lit photos."

    A bit contradictory, no?

    "Accuracy sharply falls when imperfect training images are used. The team introduced black colour into the images dropping performance to 14.7 per cent

    recognition accuracy of our system is 12× higher than chance level."

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YPcRoPFnZo

    So, to surmise, still shit, but better than it used to be?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "So, to surmise, still shit, but better than it used to be?"

      Exactly. Even under almost perfect conditions, nearly a 1 in 10 chance of a false positive. That's really very good for the technology, but not very good for a production level device.

  3. Bronek Kozicki

    One nation under one CCTV

    I knew it would come, but it is still scary.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One nation under one CCTV

      I often call modern living of the masses , living in an open jail.

      We're tagged ,our positions known , our data under surveillance and every day we loose freedoms.

      This prison needs no walls .. they know what we do , think , look for , search , call , people we know , who they know, what they do ,our relationships with them and where we are at all times .

      We are all prisoners .

      1. Swarthy Silver badge

        Re: One nation under one CCTV

        "A boot stamping on a human face forever"

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh, the oxymoron

    "Privacy Implications of Social Media"

    There is no privacy on Social Media. Zero, Zilch, None.

    Don't post those selfies and then commit a crime. You will get busted by the Thought Police.

    I am so glad that I have no presence on social media. Before anyone asks, 'what have you got to hide?', the answer is my effing life. Most of what I do is of no, repeat no interest to anyone. Why should I to use an El Reg word, 'embiggen' it up and hope that other poor sods find it interesting.

    As for keeping in contact my family, many of them are reducing their presence of Facebook etc because of the dangers we all know about and most of you choose to ignore.

    We email each other and have a family blog site that even Google does not know about and even if it did, it can't index it with their bots.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No presence in social media?

      You didn't, until you went to the pub with your mate Gav and bumped into his mate Brian who took a selfie and tagged the people when uploading it :-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No presence in social media?

        And meanwhile the things YOU do, even in private, can have knock-on effects on the rest of society because NO ONE lives in complete isolation. It's the whole "chain reaction" thing.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh, the oxymoron

      " Before anyone asks, 'what have you got to hide?', the answer is my effing life. Most of what I do is of no, repeat no interest to anyone."

      To all those idiots who ask that question, I always ask them in return - Have you got curtains or blinds in your windows at home and if so , why? You've got nothing to hide, right?

      Privacy in real life and privacy on line are no different. I have no identified photos of me online (though I may well be in the background in miscellanious holiday snaps) and I hope to keep it that way. Even if Facebook or some other silicon valley giant squid does have my a picture with me in it, at least they can't identify me. Obviously the government can, but thats unavoidable. But there's no reason to let a private company do it too just so they can make money from cross correlation of various aspects of my life such as where I've been and who my friends are.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh, the oxymoron

        "To all those idiots who ask that question, I always ask them in return - Have you got curtains or blinds in your windows at home and if so , why? You've got nothing to hide, right?"

        I answer, "Yes. My body, on account of indecent exposure laws. Since the visibility of my body by the public is a criminal matter, I'm kinda forced into it."

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Oh, the oxymoron

          "Since the visibility of my body by the public is a criminal matter, I'm kinda forced into it.""

          No it isn't. Not in the UK anyway. Public exposure is not the same as being visible naked in your own home.

          1. Adam 52 Silver badge

            Re: Oh, the oxymoron

            "No it isn't. Not in the UK anyway. Public exposure is not the same as being visible naked in your own home."

            Now this is where the law in theory and practice differ. Technically you may be naked in your home (as indeed you may be outside of it) but practically you'll be nicked, charged and convicted if anyone complains.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting that the system requires a handful of well lit photos so it's probably not used for looking for terrorists (who are unlikely to allow well lit photos of themselves to be published), but is eminently useable for keeping the oppressed masses (ie, the general population) under control.

  6. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
    Pint

    The meanings of "identify"

    For argument's sake...

    You're down the pub with some mates, and a photo is snapped, you decide to go home, but lend your brother your jacket (it's a cold night) and your mates and him are later caught on CCTV doing something inappropriate with a traffic cone.

    This system is likely to say it's you with the traffic cone.

    Good enough for flooding you with Ads (road maintenance equipment, alcoholic support organisations...), but should NEVER be accepted as "beyond reasonable doubt" in a court of law. Of course, not being used in courts won't stop the security services using it when targeting drones.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The meanings of "identify"

      "This system is likely to say it's you with the traffic cone."

      Unless it's a TWIN brother, you'd think the system would be able to differentiate using the head shape, the eyes, and so on.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: The meanings of "identify"

        Depends how alike you and your brother look.

        My little bro is three years younger than me, but there was a period in our twenties where not only did other people get us mixed up, but we can only tell each other apart in photos by our clothes. ("I don't remember going there, oh wait a minute that's not my coat").

        If humans can make a mistake, then computers can as well, only faster and more efficiently.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The meanings of "identify"

      That is literally how the law works at times.

      I recently read the Steam (online PC games store) is about to ban people if they gift a game, and the person they gave to uses hacks. This is to prevent hackers from making fake accounts and gifting out stolen/cheap games to easily hack on a second account (thus avoiding a ban on the first).

      The solution is like a shotgun to remove a flea. :/

      1. jelabarre59

        Re: The meanings of "identify"

        I recently read the Steam (online PC games store) is about to ban people if they gift a game, and the person they gave to uses hacks.

        Hey, if some company has decided they don't want my money, I'm quite happy to oblige them.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gait recognition provided similar accuracy more than a decade ago.

    1. Dan McIntyre

      I'd like to see someone identify me from my gait... I use a powerchair to get around.

      1. Simon Harris

        They'll probably use one of those CSI resolution enhancers to read the serial number off your chair.

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Where does it lead?

    One more step towards the inevitable swarms of government micro-video-drones so small and quiet that you won't be able to tell them apart from insects. At that point all privacy is lost.

    Mankind has, what, 20 or 30 years to sort out how society operates, how we all get along, how we govern ourselves properly once and for all, or it's all over and a hellish situation awaits us all as an all powerful global dictatorship rules over all we see and do. No possibility to dissent or organise a fight against them, the odds stacked overwhelmingly and comprehensively against us.

    Sounds a bit grim and pessimistic, I admit, but when the tools they need become available, there's no turning back so I don't believe I'm worrying for nothing. I do hope I'm wrong! Maybe a push back against this will happen violently just in time, as we realise just how serious the danger is. I'd welcome constructive opinions on this....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where does it lead?

      >Mankind has, what, 20 or 30 years to sort out how society operates,

      My guess would be 10 years or less.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where does it lead?

      "One more step towards the inevitable swarms of government micro-video-drones so small and quiet that you won't be able to tell them apart from insects. At that point all privacy is lost."

      Tell me. Who gets to sort out all the millions of videos such a system would inevitably generate? What about bandwidth concerns (given there's a physical limit for wireless bandwidth)? How would it deal with jammers, especailly flying jammers disguised as birds (there are plenty of bird species that put insects on their diet)? Or people start taking to making EMP emitters?

      1. Roj Blake

        Re: Where does it lead?

        "Tell me. Who gets to sort out all the millions of videos such a system would inevitably generate?"

        The Computer does. The Computer is your friend, citizen.

        I am sorry, citizen, but this information is currently placed at Security Clearance VIOLET. Reading any of the above words without appropriate security clearance is considered treason. Please proceed directly to your nearest available Termination Booth. Thank you for your cooperation. Have a nice daycycle!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well

    For years ive been able to identify a number of women simply by their arse, Can it do that??

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "... the computer vision community ..."

    *guffaw*

  12. Stevie

    Bah!

    Good. It's about time I got some recognition.

  13. Aodhhan

    Privacy concerns

    Use of these systems are for protection and safety; which trumps privacy in nearly every instance when you're out in public or on commercial property.

    Don't get shocked when you find out there is a database of facial recognition data which is shared among those who use these applications. Las Vegas casinos have been doing this for years now.

    In most cities, mug shots of criminals are posted and these pictures are available to download and put into facial recognition systems. So, if you commit a crime in Nowhereville, Idaho you could set off bells and whistles when entering a store in another part of the country.

    You can bet your life, facial recognition will start to be used when you go in for a job interview. So, you think it's bad now... you have no idea.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Privacy concerns

      "You can bet your life, facial recognition will start to be used when you go in for a job interview. So, you think it's bad now... you have no idea."

      I'd hate to think the nightmare scenarios this could pit for identical siblings where one is a convicted felon...

  14. Adair Silver badge

    Only if that's the way you think.

    1. Keven E

      Zillions!

      Not sure if Adair and I are on the same track here... but...

      ... whoTF cares about this tech? As law enforcement and marketing dept are both focused because of the "spawn of satan" (one *for one *against... theoretically (lol)) isn't this just another way of dehumanizing, and both with the next logically forseeable step towards abuse by control freaks? I, for one, reject your attempts to make me buy XYZ product from an XYZ sponsored dealer and stop altering the traffic lights in front of me so I spend extra time in front of that 1 zillion watt LED flashing advert...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Random Guess

    ....still better than random guessing which clocks in at 4.65 per cent

    Ummm... that would tell me that they have 21 people in their huge database of pictures?

    I think I could do better in that case with a random guess and get it 4.76% of the time.

  16. Chris G Silver badge

    I call BS

    I call bullshit on this one; if as they say this kind of tech is already out there, given the numbers of security cameras around, solved crime figures would be much higher. How many times have reported crimes with video footage remained unsolved even when the faces are not that obscured? Or is it that none of these criminals have social media lives and have never had a mug shot taken?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I call BS

      I'll join you in the BS call.

      I worked with the RCMP as an IT contractor.... de-blurring is good ONLY if they have something to compare it against. Just like fingerprints.

    2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: I call BS

      I suspect it has issues with block motion compensation in modern cameras. Image features are a sharp but not exactly where they should be.

  17. MrTuK

    I suppose model companies could pay a FB to do a search for what they classify as pretty ladies or men, that would be the scary situation !

    On the other side of things, if you live in a rural area there are no camera's !

    So until one applies for a driving license or passport you could remain off the radar for quite some time - shhhesh I have just worked out why they wanna push Broadband everywhere now, its not for people's benefit - its so they can have remote IP based CCTV anywhere - Doh - And I thought it was to improve the digital life of people living in rural areas, damn I'm so stupid sometimes, make that a lot of the time these days !

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "On the other side of things, if you live in a rural area there are no camera's !"

      Oh, what about cameras carried aboard small aircraft that tend to be common in rural settings?

  18. harmjschoonhoven
    WTF?

    An fancy

    makeup can fool face recognition systems. It certainly works for against OpenCV face detection by Haar Cascades.

  19. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    So don't use gaussian blur then

    Use something like encryption, I suspect the weakness of the gaussian blur is the predictability

  20. Ru'
    WTF?

    "The team introduced black colour into the images dropping performance to 14.7 per cent..."

    Am I the only one struggling with this text? Does it mean when using images there were no black/dark pixels before? Or is this something about black people, perhaps suggesting they all look the same to the software (joke...)?

    Can some learned reg commentard please set me straight?

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