back to article Face masks hamper the spread of coronavirus. Know what else they hamper? Facial-recognition systems (except China's)

Face masks worn to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus typically decrease the accuracy of commercial facial recognition algorithms by up to 50 per cent, according to an investigation by America's technical standards watchdog, NIST. “With the arrival of the pandemic, we need to understand how face recognition …

  1. alain williams Silver badge

    Rules on face mask design ?

    It will be interesting to see if rules are introduced that restrict how face masks are made:

    * how big they are, how much of the face they cover

    * what patterns can be printed on them. Patterns can confuse recognition systems

    Also which countries make the restrictions.

    1. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: Rules on face mask design ?

      I've decided to go full black balaclava, black turtleneck, black jeans and shoes. I'm also going to carry a largish nondescript duffel bag or metal case. I may even put a guy fawkes mask over the balaclava.

      Sure I'll comply with your facemask requirements. I might even make it my new normal.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Rules on face mask design ?

        What about a face mask that looks like a face? That should provide a double-whammy of both throwing off your detection and raising that of someone else.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What about a face mask that looks like a face?

          Especially this one

          1. dajames Silver badge

            Re: What about a face mask that looks like a face?

            Especially this one

            Oh, sorry ... I thought we were talking about human faces!

            1. quartzz

              Re: What about a face mask that looks like a face?

              human faeces

              /obvious joke thing

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What about a face mask that looks like a face?

            Especially this one

            Masks that make you look like Cominic Dummings are illegal - you might be mistakenly identified as someone who can go wherever he likes and do whatever the fuck he wants, and we can't allow that for the little people can we...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Dominic Failed Eye Test Masks?

              Well, they have to prove that is was you wearing the mask. If even 10% of the population wear them then good luck to the PLOD fingering the real culprit.

              BoJo masks for everyone! Make them compulsory. Then we can get "I've been everywhere man!" played on the Radio during PMQ's.

    2. Efer Brick

      Re: Rules on face mask design ?

      or this?

      https://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/hwz3dk/a_person_wearing_a_fullface_prosthetic_mask_to/

  2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Can we get some masks printed

    With a QR code along the lines of 'drop table images --' ?

    Shouldn't take an AI long to work out how a QR code works...

    1. seven of five Silver badge

      Re: Can we get some masks printed

      > Shouldn't take an AI long to work out how a QR code works...

      It doesn't, but then it forgot. Again. goto 10.

  3. The Sprocket

    Tempted to go full executioner's hood. Let AI figure that one out.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Need to be careful

      "Tempted to go full executioner's hood. Let AI figure that one out."

      Be careful with that one. Most executioner's masks don't cover the mouth, which is the prime purpose in this case. You might do better with a "Red Latex Rubber Gummi Hood Mask" or a "Dog Full Head Mask Soft Padded Latex Rubber Puppy" :) :)

      1. Simon Ward

        Re: Need to be careful

        Not gonna lie, I've been seriously tempted to get a plague doctor mask .... the biggest problem is how to accomodate my glasses (it's no exaggeration that I'm damn near blind without them ...)

        (see That Wiki if you don't know what I'm talking about.)

        1. Chris Fox

          Plague outfit

          The plague doctor mask (and cape) has already been tried by a teenager in Norwich. For some reason the police threatened him with prosecution if he wears it in public again, although it is not clear what law, if any, is broken by wearing such an outfit.

          1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

            Re: Plague outfit

            The law of "I don't like it, and I can arrest you."

            1. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge
              Unhappy

              Re: Plague outfit

              That's a shame.

              I was looking forward to wearing my new hooded cope and skull mask while taking my scythe to be sharpened.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Plague outfit

            They DID NOT threaten him with prosecution - they said he wasn't breaking any laws, but they'd like to advise him to be more considerate to the community.

            Funny how rumours start. Was that a "PC GONE MAD" story in the mail?

            https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-52456180

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Plague outfit

              "They DID NOT threaten him with prosecution"

              Exactly. But nobody will remember that, because it's obvious that all cops are bad and evil, and out to get all of us.

              Or so I hear. Mostly from fucking idiots who will be the first to call the cops at the first sign of trouble ...

            2. Richard 12 Silver badge
              Gimp

              Re: Plague outfit

              "Terrifying for kids"?

              That person cant have encountered many real children. Most kids absolutely love that kind of thing!

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: it is not clear what law, if any, is broken

            I'm pretty sure there's something in by-laws of by-regulations about "causing alarm / distress to the public". Job done :(

        2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: see That Wiki if you don't know what I'm talking about.

          Looks like a quack to me.

  4. KBeee
    Big Brother

    Wonderful

    So for facial recognition to find "criminals", the false positives have gone from 90% to 95%?

    1. b0llchit
      Joke

      Re: Wonderful

      Previous estimates in the US was 96% false positives. The system has become 50% worse. Therefore, now there are at least 98% false positives.

      This should be getting close to the right numbers though. The US has incarcerated about 0.7% of the entire population. With 2% correctly identified true positives you can imagine that a third already is in prison and the remaining true positives are actually the remaining two thirds who should be in prison(*).

      (*) lies, damn lies and statistics. You need an AI to successfully bluff your way to statistical significance.

  5. Spanners Silver badge
    Go

    How about

    Does it make it worse if the victimsubject wears large sunglasses?

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    WTF?

    What ?

    "the most accurate algorithms fail to authenticate a person about 0.3 per cent of the time"

    Well it's a shame that those algorithms are apparently not in use in what is implemented these days in public areas. I wonder what the cops in the USA think of that kind of declaration.

    I've been reading for months about systems currently in use having a false positive ratio of about 80%. Where the hell does 0.3% come from now ?

    1. AndersH

      Re: What ?

      I would guess... China.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What ?

      possibly because these are "please look into the camera" shots at a passport control rather than simply passing shots

    3. A K Stiles Silver badge

      Re: What ?

      From that statement, the 0.3% isn't a false positive value, it's a false negative value. They are saying that the AI fails to match the masked image against one from it's set of model images 3 times in a thousand. What they haven't said is how many times the system matched the masked image to the wrong picture from the model set...

    4. Kevin Johnston Silver badge

      Re: What ?

      From the article this was authenticating against the untouched image of the person so one system could nearly always match a pair. As other people have said though this needs the false matches to have any meaning. Just becauseyou coudl show that Picture A matched Picture A with a mask 99% of the time means nothing if it also matched it to Pictures B, C, D and E with masks to similar proportions.

    5. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: What ?

      There is a HUGE difference between matching a face to a single stored image, such as when authenticating a user or matching a face to a passport holder and giving a yes/no answer, and looking for matches between hundreds of faces that pass a CCTV camera against a database of thousands of faces in a criminal database.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: What ?

        Not to mention that so-called AI image recognition has been shown to get things wildly wrong simply by change a few strategic pixel, so pasting on a digital mask instead of a natural photo of the person with a real mask might well be introducing new artefacts.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But how do humans recognise faces?

    Somewhat informative link here:

    https://lawcomic.net/guide/?p=3285

    On this basis, even human face recog is local-face-shape-variations dependent.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
      Holmes

      Down with this sort of thing!

      Hmm. I'm usually the first to say "Careful now..." when someone says "all [XYZ] look the same". But this perhaps gives some non-racist credence to that trope - if recognition criteria really do vary by race.

      So, for a given observer of given race, if their recognition criteria are significantly different compared to those a different race, it's harder for this observer to recognise individuals of said race at a glance. Hence the observer may claim "all [XYZ] look the same" without it being a racist comment. Whether the observer is actually generally racist is a different question.

    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      Re: But how do humans recognise faces?

      It's been known and proven for several years. It goes even further, a zookeeper could tell the difference between a dozen apes or small herd farmer with their cows.

  8. Chris G Silver badge

    The digital masks shown in the article all appear to faithfully replicate the jaw line, real masks rend to deform it in some way so I doubt the study has anything useful to say.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Try this one

      https://teemoonley.com/product/arnold-schwarzenegger-total-recall-face-mask/

  9. Jamie Jones Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    American (and now English) "patriots"

    Whenever a trumptard has commented about masks being against his constitutional rights (presumably like speeding, drink/dtiving, murder etc.) I've explained that the whole "anti-mask" movement is actually a conspiracy started by the deep-state, because their America-wide network of hiddrn cameras can't track people wearing masks, and that Trump is only going along with it as he's being blackmailed.

    TAKE BACK YOUR RIGHTS - WEAR A MASK!

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Go

      Re: American (and now English) "patriots"

      You can also turn Trumpian mask-haters by claiming that masks filter out the measles/mumps/rubella vaccine that the Gates Foundation and George Soros pump into the air in the U.S.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: American (and now English) "patriots"

        Day-am! And all these years I though chem-trails were about mind control!

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: American (and now English) "patriots"

          Chem-trails ARE about mind control ... just look at the minds of the people who believe that they are nefarious. (Wear a condom. You never know what you might catch if you go poking around in there without protection.)

    2. Old one

      The denial of Re: American (and now English) "patriots"

      Considering the amount of worldwide published data for years about the relative INEFFECTIVENESS of masks for VIRAL infections vs bacterial infections its amazing that anyone believes they work now. CDC & WHO have both published articles a few years ago demonstrating the various effectiveness of types of masks on various pathogens. Current data form dozens of US states ALL show dramatic increases in infection rates sine shortly after mandatory mask use was put in place. https://coronavirusbellcurve.com/#newmexico Maybe you should question following the actions that create MORE infections than those the people who want to avoid getting sick.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: The denial of American (and now English) "patriots"

        I'm pretty certain the sharp rise in infections correlates close to perfectly with idiots protesting en mass during a pandemic.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The denial of American (and now English) "patriots"

        Even if that was true, it doesn't detract from the original posters point. These people aren't refusing for scientific reasons, they are doing so because they think it's some sort of affront on their freedoms.

        They are so weak, feeble and insecure, that they ironically think wearing a mask makes them look weak.

  10. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Happy

    I get accused of spoofing facial recognition with masks all the time!

    I can't help it if I am actually a slightly better-looking version of Brad Pitt! Maybe I should wear a mask with an image of an average-looking guy on it!

  11. Nifty Bronze badge

    I thought AI could detect

    If it walks like a duck, it is a duck

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: I thought AI could detect

      Oh? What if it's a goose with a duck call?

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: I thought AI could detect

      Last year we had a turkey that was hatched & raised by the ducks. He walked and otherwise acted like a duck (kept trying to drown himself for a while there ...). Tasted like turkey, though.

    3. a pressbutton Silver badge

      Re: I thought AI could detect

      I thought ducks waddled

      Something that walks like a duck probably isn't

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: I thought AI could detect

        These are Indian Runners. They don't waddle.

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. osakajin Bronze badge

    Be totally safe like me and wear a balaclava.

  14. quartzz

    good (algorithms) against remotes is one thing, good (algorithms) against the living? (poor taste pun not intended) that's something else.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020