back to article Sick of AI engines scraping your pics for facial recognition? Here's a way to Fawkes them right up

Researchers at the University of Chicago's Sand Lab have developed a technique for tweaking photos of people so that they sabotage facial-recognition systems. The project, named Fawkes in reference to the mask in the V for Vendetta graphic novel and film depicting 16th century failed assassin Guy Fawkes, is described in a …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I would like to run this on the photos I submit for my passport and driving license.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah but ...

      Passport, maybe, but you don't submit photos for your driving license. They take it on the spot, at least where I live. We need a facial hologram emitter :-)

      1. herman Silver badge

        Re: Yeah but ...

        We need very subtle spray on camo paint.

      2. katrinab Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Yeah but ...

        Where I live (UK, not Northern Ireland which issues its own driving licences), you can opt to use the photo from the passport database.

      3. DJV Silver badge

        Re: Yeah but ...

        My UK driving license photo is already facial recognition proof as I've still got a tatty old paper one from about 23 years ago (when I last moved house and had to update it). It doesn't actually have a photo as it wasn't a requirement back then. And, yes, I have checked with the DVLA, these old paper ones are still legal despite some people claiming otherwise!

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Yeah but ...

          Yes, I believe they only require you to update your licence if your address or name changes or - I suppose - if you need to add or remove categories, points and suchlike. However once you have had a photocard licence then you must update the photo every ten years.

          There are several "ratchet" systems out there now, some of which are hitting us having recently rebuilt our house:

          • we had to have a new water supply connected to cope with domestic fire suppression sprinklers (mandatory in Wales). Our ½" supply was unmetered, our 32mm supply has a mandatory meter.
          • we had to move the gas and electricity supplies. The electricity meter was forcibly changed for a "smart" meter, though they seem to be allowing us to keep our original gas meter. Odd that.
          • we had to de-register the house for Council Tax as it was unoccupied for more than six months. If it had remained registered it would have carried on at the same banding when we re-occupied it, but re-registering it means they will have to reassess it and as we've added two bedrooms it's highly likely it will move up a band or two

          Only recently discovered that unlike when I learned to drive, provisional licences are also valid for ten years - it was two when I learned, after which you had to apply (and pay) for a new one. However, a pass in the theory test is only valid for two years.

          M.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Yeah but ...

            "I believe they only require you to update your licence if [...]"

            When you reach the age of 70 you have to renew your driving licence in the UK - my first photo one. Also probably my last - as it is then a renewal every three years and I actually gave up driving 20 years ago.

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Re: Yeah but ...

              Of course - have been dealing with this for parents for a while, but with both of them now well into their 80s and one of them rapidly losing eyesight, they were finally persuaded earlier this year to "sell" the car to one of my siblings and give up driving for good. The eyesight thing was rather difficult as the eye doctor kept signing the paper work with "one eye is no good but the other is still - just - legal", even though we all knew that the multiple gatepost scratches on the previously pristine car told a different story.

              M.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Yeah but ...

                "The eyesight thing was rather difficult as the eye doctor kept signing the paper work [...]"

                When renewing my UK paper licence at 70 it was surprisingly difficult to get the information from my local Boots opticians to check against DVLA's legal eyesight minimum. They seemed surprised when I asked them for the required format "number" - and they had to ring me back later to confirm I was ok. It should really be a mandatory field on the prescription sheet you are given after an eye test.

                The photocard licence did come in useful when giving a young couple a gift to help with their first mortgage. Money laundering rules meant going through mandatory hoops to obtain identity verification with a photo driving licence and passport. Fortunately my passport had also been renewed recently. The young couple were initially doubtful I could provide such verification as they knew I had given up both the car and holidaying abroad nearly 30 years ago.

    2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Photos look obviously distorted

      At the github link, you can download binaries for Mac, Windows & Linux. When I ran the Windows version on a couple of headshots of myself, they looked obviously distorted too much to be usable. Even the example of the author of the software that is part of the package you download makes him look like he has a bad rash. In my case, it made me look like I had a rash and it added a unibrow, as well as made me look like I had a broken nose.

      1. mevets

        Re: Photos look obviously distorted

        So it is a Pete Townsend generator... cue my my my generation..

    3. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      "I would like to run this on the photos I submit for my passport and driving license"

      Not sure if that's a good idea. How much time do you want to spend pulled out of a boarding line while security puzzles over why their system says 'Denied'?

      When I want authentication, I want the facial recog to work. When I'm out and about in town, I want to wear something that messes with the match so they don't spot me in a crowd.

      1. juliansh

        mandatory face mask?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "I want to wear something that messes with the match so they don't spot me in a crowd."

        What happened to the CCTV recognition system based on the theory that everyone has a unique walk?

        1. AlbertH
          IT Angle

          Nope....

          It never worked properly (colour me surprised!)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Nope....

            Although interestingly a colleague picked me out from a 3 second "walk across in the background" clip in a BBC news broadcast filmed at our local rail station last summer. She was adamant that "I recognised you from your walk", even if other team members thought is was down to the fact that I was the only commuter still wearing a tie as we finally escaped yet another heavily delayed August service.

    4. RobbzOSDecentro

      Ah thats the worry bud I want these on both but don't want fkn AI tracking our pictures on places we travel or locate to because it becomes a very sensitive issue with security.

      Im due to send off for me passport this week coming and took my photo from the photo machine, would this be ok to include with my password?

  2. Tony W

    "16th century failed assassin Guy Fawkes"

    For those who need to be told who Guy Fawkes was, this is an odd way to describe him. He was indeed born in the 16th century but the plot without which he would have remained in obscurity was a 17th century event. And assassination usually means the targeted killing of an individual, while the Gunpower Plot was more like what we would now call terrorism. Although I don't think there's an English word that does justice to the murder of the head of state and the entire legislature in one go.

    1. Rol Silver badge

      Re: "16th century failed assassin Guy Fawkes"

      A stroke of good luck?

      A busy day in Hell's reception?

      Herbicide?

      Silver cloud with a diamond encrusted lining?

      Yeah! Just what is the term for temporarily freeing the masses from their incompetent masters?

      1. St. Elsewhere

        Re: "16th century failed assassin Guy Fawkes"

        "Yeah! Just what is the term for temporarily freeing the masses from their incompetent masters?"

        In Fawkes' case it would be "inapplicable". He was more about replacing one set of incompetent masters with another for oh-so-important religious reasons.

        1. Symon Silver badge
          Childcatcher

          Re: "16th century failed assassin Guy Fawkes"

          "oh-so-important religious reasons"

          Exactly. He was forced to act. There were people _actually_ doubting transubstantiation, for Chrissake!

          1. genghis_uk Bronze badge

            Re: "16th century failed assassin Guy Fawkes"

            It was more about who was the highest authority, the Pope or the King.

            The interpretation of the bible has a part but the real divide was always Rome vs. England

      2. davyclam
        Pint

        Re: "16th century failed assassin Guy Fawkes"

        Brexit ?

        1. RobbzOSDecentro

          Re: "16th century failed assassin Guy Fawkes"

          That still won't work Brexit is part of the same thing for surveillance and security,unfortunately those rights some of them we had from the EU may be affected, they already use facial recognition where I am so I use unknown routes and go elsewhere to dodge them

    2. gerdesj Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: "16th century failed assassin Guy Fawkes"

      "Does justice" is one way to describe what happened to Fawkes and Co. It got pretty medieval in their last few hours breathing. Who can forget the old rhyme:

      Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpowder treason and plot.

      Rip, rend, tear, crush and burn the fuckers ... lol

      Penny for the Guy mister?

    3. RyokuMas Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: "16th century failed assassin Guy Fawkes"

      "Although I don't think there's an English word that does justice to the murder of the head of state and the entire legislature in one go."

      Given the current state of the UK, I think that the word for the entire legislature at least is "overdue".

    4. Pat Att

      Re: "16th century failed assassin Guy Fawkes"

      Blessed relief?

      1. Louis Schreurs Bronze badge

        Re: "16th century failed assassin Guy Fawkes"

        Every morning I enjoy a 'blessed relief' !!

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "16th century failed assassin Guy Fawkes"

      > Although I don't think there's an English word that does justice to the murder of the head of state and the entire legislature in one go.

      Revolutionary?

      [Icon: - had to go anon to get the appropriate icon!]

    6. MudFever

      Re: "16th century failed assassin Guy Fawkes"

      Yes, definitely a FAILED TERRORIST much like Richard Reid (aka the shoe bomber).

      I wonder which modern day failed terrorists we'll be celebrating in 200-300 years time, and how...

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: "16th century failed assassin Guy Fawkes"

        Nobody celebrates Guy Fawkes.

        Nelson Mandela is a celebrated terrorist.

        1. dajames Silver badge

          Re: "16th century failed assassin Guy Fawkes"

          Nobody celebrates Guy Fawkes.

          Unless you count burning his effigy every 5th November (and for a month or two either side, these days) "celebration". It's certainly been an excuse for a party ever since I were a lad.

          1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

            Re: "16th century failed assassin Guy Fawkes"

            That's not a celebration of the terrorist. That's a Protestant celebration of the burning of the Catholic insurgent.

    7. iron Silver badge

      Re: "16th century failed assassin Guy Fawkes"

      Of course you're assuming Master Fawkes was guilty of the crimes for which he was executed. There is a strong possibility that Fawkes was a stooge fitted up by the King's spymaster to make himself more important. James was notoriously scared of plots, spies and witches.... hence the Scottish play.

      1. I am the liquor

        Re: the Scottish play

        Shrek The Musical?

    8. Anonymous Coward
  3. Magani
    Happy

    That's already been done by Magritte

    Available as an Android app, a user could take a picture of, say, a pipe and it would not be a pipe to the classifier.

    Ceci n'est pas une pipe.

    1. David Nash

      Re: That's already been done by Magritte

      I wondered why that particular example was chosen. Probably for this reference.

  4. Nuno trancoso

    So, now they have to retrain the set again to account for this "pseudo-gan"... Ah well, just another dataset augmentation, nothing new...

    1. Llcodejason

      "So, now they have to retrain the set again to account for this 'pseudo-gan'.."

      I will first require a means of identifying who has a trained set of my images.

      Then a means of forcing them to delete it.

      Then I probably need to move onto 'correcting' my photos on social media, across my accounts and those in which I'm tagged or otherwise identified.

      Without the first two steps there seems no benefit from the third. I have embraced wearing a face mask at all times now, for health reasons you understand not privacy from state snooping, and this is likely to remedy the problem in the short term.

      1. William Towle
        Thumb Up

        > I have embraced wearing a face mask at all times now, for health reasons you understand not privacy from state snooping, and this is likely to remedy the problem in the short term.

        One of my friends drives a bus and recently apologised for showing no recognition due to my combination of face mask and lockdown hair.

        I did notice one or two people on LinkedIn having replaced profile photos with new ones including face masks but hadn't considered it might also be useful subversively...

  5. chuckufarley

    It looks like the next leg...

    ..of the Face Race has begun in earnest. Soon we will need AI to tell us if the news programs we watch have are deep fakes and then we will have to worry about whether or not the deep fakes have been run through anti deep fake detection algorithms.

    It's enough to make me think that my ancestors' decision to live in the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.

    1. not.known@this.address Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: It looks like the next leg...

      "It's enough to make me think that my ancestors' decision to live in the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans."

      That wasn't the problem. The problem was your true ancestors got out-evolved by telephone sanitizers, tired TV producers and hairdressers...

      Mine's the dressing gown with a towel in the pocket.

  6. herman Silver badge

    Spray face paint

    Pretty soon, we all would need to apply camo face paint before leaving the home. I think I prefer wearing the damned Covid masks to a spray on Burka.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Guy Fawkes

    The only man to enter Parliament with Honest Intentions.

    1. Symon Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Guy Fawkes

      Maybe not the only one. "Long live the Marinus van der Lubbe international firebombing society".

      p.s. OK, so that's the Reichstag, not Parliament. But surely worth an honourable mention! Especially as he actually succeeded...

  8. seven of five Silver badge

    Old news

    > the pictures won't be useful for identifying the people they depict.

    So, esentially, just like the system the MET already has in place.

  9. T. F. M. Reader

    Randomized poisoning

    Can the "poisoning" have a random component so that every uploaded picture looks different to AI, preventing "tagging", effective search, etc., etc.?

    1. AlbertH

      Re: Randomized poisoning

      Yes it can. It's going to be a nightmare for government agencies if its use becomes widespread - they'll end up having to store gigantic numbers of images if each of us registers (say) 10 images of "us" on line, and >90% of them will be worthless. Worse yet, they won't know which 90% will be defective, rendering their entire database completely useless. Another government IT project that will never work!

  10. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Yabbut...

    Why would the twitterati even care? We show them end-to-end encryption, and they don't use it. They splatter their images all over the web without care or consideration as to what, how, where, or why they might be used; they utter their largely vacuous ramblings the same way. They ignore adverts and tracking scripts and use mail systems that cheerfully read their mail for them (focussed mail my arse) and they live in a network of continual visual noise.

    I'd suggest - based on purely anecdotal evidence - that 90% of internet users don't think of anything more than 'look at me!'. Of the 10% that do, 90% don't do anything about it. Of the 10% of those, 90% don't have the ability to change it. While the remaining few take care not to post except to specialist interest groups; don't splatter their faces all over the web; don't expose themselves to unknown scripts and trackers.

    Here's the problem: for the vast majority of people, it isn't one.

    (Oh, and can we please find another name for AI? Artificial it may be, but I have difficulty accepting 'intelligence' in something that doesn't have sentience. Statistics, maybe?)

    1. Emir Al Weeq

      Re: Yabbut...

      I recently came across a company using the term AI, but when questioned they said it stood for Augmented Insights. A bit underhand, I admit, but I felt it was more accurate. Augmented Inference would work too.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Yabbut...

        Attempted Inference

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Yabbut...

      How about calling it AC....Artificial Competence

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Re: Artificial Competence

        Given the typical failure rate of most AI projects, Artificial Incompetence seems more apt. So still AI.Just not the "I" we are led to believe.

        1. Teiwaz Silver badge

          Re: Artificial Competence

          Given the typical failure rate of most AI projects, Artificial Incompetence seems more apt. So still AI.Just not the "I" we are led to believe.

          Given that the typical failures are often implemented anyway, I suggest 'Annoying Incompetence'

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Artificial Competence

            Actual Incompetence

    3. Ogi

      Re: Yabbut...

      > Oh, and can we please find another name for AI? Artificial it may be, but I have difficulty accepting 'intelligence' in something that doesn't have sentience. Statistics, maybe?

      I tend to call it "Machine learning", which seems to describe it to me better. The machines are capable of learning, but they are not sentient, nor are they "Intelligent" in the sense humans are.

      The best you can say is that by training the machine so it learns something you want it to, you have imparted a limited sub set of your intelligence into your machine to solve a specific problem within a limited domain.

      That does not make the machine intelligent, anymore than a machine that is programmed normally by a human is "intelligent". Nor do I consider it "Artificial", as the learning is real, as is the system it runs on.

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: Yabbut...

        Exactly.

        It's an Expert System with a built-in method of extracting the information needed to train it.

    4. handle handle

      Re: Yabbut...

      The farm boys' decoder ring says "artificial insemination".

  11. Ben Tasker Silver badge

    > Interested individuals may wish to try cloaking publicly posted pictures of themselves so that if the snaps get scraped and used to train to a facial recognition system – as Clearview AI is said to have done – the pictures won't be useful for identifying the people they depict.

    Presumably, though, adding this to pics that are already published might be harmful?

    If someone could put together a set of known before/after's, could they then train their network to identify and discard tampered images? At least, assuming that running it against the same image twice will give two identical sets of output (it crapped itself on my machine, so can't test)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This just in, boffins train facial recognition software to detect FAWKES anti detection SW.

  13. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Marketing opportunity

    Maybe the time is not quite here yet, but I see a market for a camera that automatically post-processes all images to render them proof against computer recognition algorithms.

  14. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    More useful to most ...

    Of more use to the average person would be a way to make subtle changes to numberplates to confuse the ANPR cameras while appearing perfectly normal to humans.

    1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

      Re: More useful to most ...

      Not to the average person, no. But certainly to a select few bellends that think they have some sort of divine right to accelerate a tonne of metal to warp speed wherever they please, without insurance.

  15. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    I suspect this won't work for very long. If we can recognise someone, then the neural networks will be able to as well.

    1. Kevin Johnston Silver badge

      I recall a wonderful short story by Isaac Asimov which foresaw this scenario where comparisons were made of brainwave patterns in people with depression compared to happy people. If you subtract a complex waveform from another complex waveform the result is a third complex waveform.

      With the cameras, they are now are so much more capable than the human eye/brain combination for storing details that minute changes are seen as completely different images unless you reduce the details down to the point it matches some A list celeb with a cactus. Meanwhile, we see the person we expected to see.

  16. spacecadet66

    I'm not usually one for banning technologies, but I think I would make an exception for facial recognition. I can't think of a single non-pernicious use for them (and no, I do not trust the police with them, don't @ me.)

    Unfortunately, the people most likely to do the banning are also very interested in facial recognition.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Unfortunately, the people most likely to do the banning are also very interested in facial recognition."

      Just because they officially ban it - doesn't mean they are going to stop using it themselves.

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

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