Posts Tagged

Recognition

3 reasons you can’t fight facial recognition

Back in the day — by which I mean a period starting with the emergence of homo sapiens around 500,000 years ago until the day before yesterday — it was possible for humans to walk around in society completely unrecognized and without any record of them having been there.

At some point in the future, it will be impossible to drive, shop, walk, go to work or function without being recognized by machines that will permanently record the fact of your presence in that place at that time.

Right now, we’re in transition between the world of anonymous living and the always-recognized future.

Is the future a biometric convenience and security utopia? Or Orwellian nightmare. The answer is: Yes.

The biometric backlash

A movement opposing face recognition technology deployed by cities, universities and others is spreading, as the public begins to grapple with emerging biometric technology for identifying people.

Biometric technologies have been emerging for decades, with fingerprints, iris scanning and other technologies becoming more reliable.

Face-recognition is seen by the anti-biometric public because the “biometric data” — i.e., a picture of your face — can be “collected” at a great distance by an ordinary camera. And it can be “captured” with a camera — or even from pictures posted online.

Another trend driving the infrastructure for municipal and police face recognition is the so-called “smart city” movement. The cornerstone of the trend is the installation in each city of “smart street lights,” which contain connected cameras and other sensors ideal for total biometric surveillance. Regardless of face recognition bans, these fixtures are capable of putting a face-recognizing, licence-plate-reading, always listening devices every 100 yards on every street in a city.

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Back in the day — by which I mean a period starting with the emergence of homo sapiens around 500,000 years ago until the day before yesterday — it was possible for humans to walk around in society completely unrecognized and without any record of them having been there.

At some point in the future, it will be impossible to drive, shop, walk, go to work or function without being recognized by machines that will permanently record the fact of your presence in that place at that time.

Right now, we’re in transition between the world of anonymous living and the always-recognized future.

Is the future a biometric convenience and security utopia? Or Orwellian nightmare. The answer is: Yes.

The biometric backlash

A movement opposing face recognition technology deployed by cities, universities and others is spreading, as the public begins to grapple with emerging biometric technology for identifying people.

Biometric technologies have been emerging for decades, with fingerprints, iris scanning and other technologies becoming more reliable.

Face-recognition is seen by the anti-biometric public because the “biometric data” — i.e., a picture of your face — can be “collected” at a great distance by an ordinary camera. And it can be “captured” with a camera — or even from pictures posted online.

Another trend driving the infrastructure for municipal and police face recognition is the so-called “smart city” movement. The cornerstone of the trend is the installation in each city of “smart street lights,” which contain connected cameras and other sensors ideal for total biometric surveillance. Regardless of face recognition bans, these fixtures are capable of putting a face-recognizing, licence-plate-reading, always listening devices every 100 yards on every street in a city.

Resisting biometrics is rational. It’s also futile, and for three reasons.

1. The imperfection of face recognition is temporary

Campaigners are forcing state and local police departments to ban face recognition technology. Laws against the technology are spreading. And the number-one reason for these bans is that current technology tends to be less accurate when recognizing women and minorities.

But within a few years, face recognition technology will be essentially perfected, and everybody will be recognized faithfully by the technology. Will these same campaigners then welcome police use of face recognition? I doubt it.

2. The primacy of face recognition is temporary

As face recognition gets perfected, it will also be augmented by even more effective technologies. The weakness of face recognition is that…. it requires a face. How can you recognize someone from the back, or someone wearing Groucho glasses?

The solution to this problem is a wide range of alternative biometrics that, thanks to the rise of AI, are enabling people to be recognized by all kinds of body parts.

One is gait recognition. The way a person lumbers along while walking is as individual as fingerprints, and AI can recognize how someone walks.

Gait can be detected now not only by cameras, but also using thermal imaging. Best of all, thermal imaging technology can recognize individuals by both gait and face recognition — whatever body parts are available. Intel technology recently demonstrated 99.5 accuracy in thermal imaging technology. One way to use thermal imaging is to recognize the pattern of blood vessels beneath the surface of the skin, which are so unique that even identical twins have completely different patterns.

The Pentagon is throwing a lot of money at thermal-recognition technologies. Their requirements say that recognition needs to happen in conditions where visible-light cameras struggle — through windshields, through fog and in the face of strong backlight. And the technology needs to work as far away as 500 meters.

We all know how this works. The Pentagon invests heavily in advanced technology, yada, yada, yada, consumers are buying that technology at BestBuy ten years later.

In the future, you’ll be able to be positively ID’d while wearing Groucho glasses in a dark alley on a foggy night from 500 meters away.

Most emerging biometric technologies are pretty gross. Other emerging biometric technologies include ear-canal recognition that will ID you when you insert earbuds. The shape of the external ear is also unique and identifying. Researchers are also improving methods for identifying people using vein patters in the palm or back of the hand or on fingertips, skin patterns generally, body odor — you name it. And, of course, there’s DNA matching, in which skin flakes, hair, blood or just about any tiny chunk of a person and process it for a perfect match. (The ramifications of DNA matching were brilliantly explored in the 1997 movie, Gattaca.)

While activists worry about police departments and large organizations using biometric identification, the reality is that billions of biometric-enabled consumer electronics gadgets are now being sold. Most smartphones now have fingerprint readers, face recognition or both. Home security cameras are increasingly outfitted with face recognition. And this includes doorbell cameras pointed at the street. Cars, laptops, smart glasses, smart watches and TV sets will all get biometric identification sensors, too.

The full range of AI-enabled biometric technologies, techniques and products means you’ll be identifiable up close, far away, in the dark, while you’re driving and while you’re not driving. Your face, voice, ears, walk, vascular system and DNA will all give you away.

3. The public resistance to biometrics is also temporary

Opposition to biometric identification depends on how you ask the question.

If you ask: “Do you want to live in a world where you are recognized all the time, everywhere?,” people will say they hate it.

If you ask: “Do you want to never wait in line or type your credit card information again, for more criminals to be caught, for enterprise networks to be secure,” they will say they love it.

The biggest benefit is convenience. Good biometrics means shopping without lines, according to Amazon’s Go concept. Amazon, which owns Whole Foods Market, is aggressively pursuing stores where you walk it, grab whatever you want and walk out. Biometrics recognizes you, other sensors recognize what you take, and your credit card is automatically charged.

The biometric future means no more swiping your badge to get into the office or even unlock the door, no more carrying a wallet, no more entering passwords, no more airport security or boarding lines.

Beyond incredible convenience, biometric ID promises more public safety, safer cars, better healthcare, and enhanced national security.

It also could go a long way to helping the good guys in two conundrums facing enterprise security managers. The first is the arms race between cybercriminals and cybersecurity. And the other is the contest between security and productivity or usability.

Stated another way, as cyber-intruders grow more sophisticated in their methods, enterprise security specialists have to resort to more extreme measures, which creates problems and obstacles for workers.

The combination of AI threat detection, plus AI-driven biometrics, could help secure enterprise resources without overburdening employees. We’re entering the age of identity-defined and identity-centric security in large organizations.

The benefits of biometrics are winning the argument. An IBM survey found acceptance growing, with 67 percent of survey respondents “comfortable” with using biometrics — a whopping 75 percent of millennials also “comfortable.”

You can see this growing acceptance in the consumer acceptance of biometrics to secure payments. Juniper Research predicts that biometrics will provide the security for $2.5 trillion in mobile payments over the next four years.

People want both convenience and security, and so biometrics will win the argument.

How to think about the future of biometric security

Biometrics will solve a huge number of problems and make the world a better place.

Biometrics will make the world more like an Orwellian nightmare of total surveillance, where we’re all tracked and identified everywhere we go.

Both are true. Biometrics are both good and bad.

But here’s what matters: Ubiquitous biometrics are inevitable. And this is true not because technology advances on its own regardless of what the public thinks. It’s true because the public will overwhelmingly want biometrics.

So biometrics are taking over. And, as with so many previous technologies that are both good and bad, we’ll muddle along with legal battles, hack attacks on biometric databases and personal struggles as we weigh the costs against the benefits.

But don’t be deluded. We’re entering the era of universal biometrics. Resistance is futile. You WILL be identified.



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How Facial Recognition Search Is Destroying Your Privacy

Facial recognition technology has quickly moved from science fiction to reality. Over the past few years, companies have been racing to release facial recognition products. You can now unlock your phone, board a plane, and enter your home without lifting a finger.

Governments, too, have been quick to chase the facial recognition trend. Law enforcement agencies around the world have begun deploying invasive and controversial monitoring products. But, with so much development and so little regulation, could facial recognition technologies spell the end of individual privacy?

How Does Facial Recognition Work?

President's face on a dollar bill with facial recognition patterns mapped
Image Credit: watman/DepositPhotos

Security cameras and video surveillance have become ever more present since the cities began rolling out Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras in the mid-1990s. These cameras capture events, help detect and prosecute crimes and make many people feel safer.

In the decades since computer hardware and software have improved rapidly. There’s also been a proliferation of smartphones, which we collectively use to take and post millions of photos and videos each day.

Facial recognition systems make use of this abundance of visual data. The photos and videos are analyzed using software that often contains elements of machine learning and artificial intelligence. These algorithms look for, analyze, and store identifying facial information.

Just as your web browser can be used to identify you, so too can your facial data. This information is stored in a facial recognition database and is used to compare new images and video against. These databases are often controversial as there is no way to remove yourself from them. The databases may be operated by private companies or by governmental bodies and law enforcement.

The Surveillance State

Security camera on office building
Image Credit: blasbike/DepositPhotos

Law enforcement has been using facial recognition systems since at least 2001. A system was set up for Super Bowl XXXV which resulted in 19 people being provisionally identified as holding criminal records.

However, as the cost decreased and availability has increased, facial recognition has become commonplace. It’s not unusual to have your face scanned at an airport. The US Department of Homeland Security expects to use facial recognition on 97 percent of travelers by 2023.

While it proved effective at identifying 7,000 passengers who had overstayed their visa, many have raised concerns about the government building a facial database of millions of passengers. It would be easy to share this database with other departments or even foreign governments.

As with many governmental programs, like all the times our data was handed over to the NSA


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, we have little say in their deployment. This raises the unnerving possibility that you might be incorrectly flagged as a concern, your face used to identify you around the world, and with no recourse to change this.

In March 2017, a House oversight committee was told that over half of all adult Americans’ photographs are stored in facial recognition databases accessible by the FBI. More than 80 percent of those photographs came from non-criminal sources like passports and driver’s licenses. Even more worrying was that the algorithms used are wrong 15 percent of the time and are more likely to misidentify black people.

In the UK, London’s Metropolitan Police ran facial recognition trials throughout 2018 and 2019. The results of those trials were published in June 2019, where it was revealed how invasive, yet ineffective the systems are. Out of the 42 people stopped as a result of the trials, just eight were correctly identified as wanted.

Photography and Photo Tagging

Photo of four people with facial recognition tagging
Image Credit: Corepics/DepositPhotos

Facebook was one of the first websites to popularize the idea of tagging someone in a photograph. In the early days, this was a manual process where you had to click through your photos and enter the names of each of your friends.

The company soon realized that they could do this for you automatically. They had amassed a vast database of faces that had already been tagged as specific individuals which could be analyzed. Now, if you upload a photo onto Facebook, the social network will automatically suggest who is in the photo using a Facebook facial recognition search.

Some people viewed this as an invasion of privacy as you were auto-enrolled in the feature. The EU even ruled that Facebook had to turn the feature off in member states. However, after the 2018 implementation of the EU’s GDPR, Facebook subsequently turned it back on. If you’d prefer the company wasn’t identifying your face, you may want to take a look at the Facebook photo privacy settings you should know about


Facebook Photo Privacy Settings You Need To Know About




Facebook Photo Privacy Settings You Need To Know About

As with everything regarding privacy on Facebook, managing your photos’ privacy settings isn’t always easy.
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.

Facebook isn’t the only large technology company to experiment with facial recognition in your photos. Apple and Google both offer similar features in their cloud photo storage. One of the main differences, though, is that Facebook identifies the person in the photo; Google and Apple group similar faces together for you to assign a name to.

Facial Recognition in Business

Screenshot of Amazon's Rekognition marketing website

More recently, facial recognition has filtered into our offline lives too. The world’s largest retailer, Amazon, has been expanding into physical shops with their acquisition of Whole Foods, and the Amazon Go grocery stores. The Amazon Go stores are checkout-free, and although they do rely on cameras, they reportedly don’t use facial recognition.

The company has developed a facial recognition product though, dubbed Amazon Rekognition. The company has licensed the product to law enforcement agencies in the US. These agreements were put in place just as Congress was considering drafting regulation of facial recognition.

Civil liberties groups campaigned hard against the adoption of such a system. However, it seems to have fallen on deaf ears. At the time of writing, Congress has declined to regulate facial recognition, and Amazon’s board voted to continue selling the software. Their lack of transparency makes them one of the companies that don’t really care about your security


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.

Facial recognition is also being used even at live music venues. A system was in place during Taylor Swift’s Rose Bowl concert in May 2018. According to Rolling Stone, a kiosk set up to allow fans to watch a recording of Swift’s rehearsal had a facial recognition camera hidden inside.

Each face was sent to a command post in Nashville. There, a facial recognition search was done against a database of known Taylor Swift stalkers. Being up-front about their use of this technology may have decreased its usefulness but does call into question the ethics of doing so without informing the vast majority of law-abiding music fans whose faces were scanned.

Can You Protect Yourself From Facial Recognition?

In isolation, facial recognition systems seem useful. In theory, they can help identify criminals, enable us to seamlessly login to our devices, and automatically organize our photo collections. However, without regulation, they may contribute to the erosion of your privacy. The fast pace of change in technology makes it difficult for regulators to keep up.

It doesn’t help that the large businesses who operate these systems hold tremendous influence over the debate. The implementation of facial recognition is often sold to us under the guise of security. However, you may wonder if the current trade-off is worth sacrificing your right to privacy for.

If you’d rather your face wasn’t scanned at every available opportunity, consider using one of these techniques to avoid facial recognition


4 Ways to Avoid Facial Recognition Online and in Public




4 Ways to Avoid Facial Recognition Online and in Public

Facial recognition is becoming an increasing privacy concern. How can you avoid facial recognition surveillance and ads?
Read More

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How Does Facial Recognition Work?

A woman's face outlined with a grid. This grid is used to identify her face.
Stanislaw Mikulski/Shutterstock

Most people are comfortable with facial recognition for its use in Instagram filters and Face ID. But this relatively new technology a little creepy. Your face is like a fingerprint, and it’s difficult to understand precisely how facial recognition works.

As with any new technology, there are downsides to facial recognition. These downsides are becoming more apparent as the military, the police, advertisers, and deepfake creators, find devious new ways to take advantage of facial recognition software.

Now, more than ever, it’s essential for people to understand how facial recognition works. It’s also important to know the limitations of facial recognition and how it will develop in the future.

Facial Recognition Is Surprisingly Simple

Before getting into the many different mediums for facial recognition, it’s important to understand how the process of facial recognition works. Here are three applications for facial recognition software, and a simple explanation for how they recognize or identify faces:

  • Basic Facial Recognition: For Animoji and Instagram filters, your phone camera “looks” for the defining features of a face, specifically a pair of eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Then, it uses algorithms to lock onto a face and determine which direction it’s looking, if its mouth is open, etc. It’s worth mentioning that this isn’t facial identification, it’s just software looking for faces.
  • Face ID and Similar Programs: Upon setting up Face ID (or similar programs) on your phone, it takes a photo of your face and measures the distance between your facial features. Then, every time you go to unlock your phone, it “looks” through the camera to measure and confirm that your identity.
  • Identifying a Stranger: When an organization wants to identify a face for security, advertising, or policing purposes, it uses algorithms to compare that face to an extensive database of faces. This process is nearly identical to Apple’s Face ID but on a larger scale. Theoretically, any database could be used (ID cards, Facebook profiles), but a database of clear, pre-identified photos is ideal.

Alright, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. Because the “basic facial recognition” used for Instagram filters is such a simple and harmless process, we’re going to focus entirely on facial identification, and the many different technologies that can be used to identify a face.

Most Facial Recognition Relies on 2D Images

As you’d expect, most facial recognition software relies entirely on 2D images. But this isn’t done because 2D facial imaging is super accurate, it’s done for the sake of convenience. The overwhelming majority of cameras take photos without any depth, and public photos that can be used for facial recognition databases (Facebook profile pictures, for example) are all in 2D.

A man using facial recognition tech to identify a subject from a database.
Zapp2Photo/Shutterstock

Why isn’t 2D facial imaging super accurate? Well, because a flat image of your face lacks identifying features, like depth. With a flat image, a computer can measure your pupillary distance, and width of your mouth, among other variables. But it can’t tell the length of your nose or the prominence of your forehead.

Additionally, 2D facial imaging relies on the visible light spectrum. This means that 2D facial imaging doesn’t work in the dark, and it can be unreliable in funky or shadowy lighting conditions.

Clearly, the way around some of these shortcomings is to use 3D facial imaging. But how is that possible? Do you need special equipment to see a face in 3D?

IR Cameras Add Depth to Your Identity

While some facial recognition applications rely solely on 2D images, it isn’t uncommon to for facial recognition to rely on 3D imaging as well. In fact, your experience with facial recognition probably involves a pinch of 3D.

This is achieved through a technique called lidar, which is similar to sonar. Essentially, face scanning devices, like your iPhone, blast a harmless IR matrix at your face. This matrix (a wall of lasers) then reflects off your face and gets picked up by an IR camera (or ToF camera) on your phone.

A woman using Face ID, or a similar IR-based facial recognition technology.
Prostock-Studio/Shutterstock

Where does the 3D magic happen? Your phone’s IR camera measures how long it takes for each bit of IR light to bounce off of your face and return to the phone. Naturally, the light that reflects off of your nose will have a shorter journey than the light that reflects off your ears, and the IR camera uses this information to create a unique depth map of your face. When used alongside basic 2D imaging, 3D imaging can significantly increase the accuracy of facial recognition software.

Lidar imaging is a weird concept that can be difficult to wrap your head around. If it helps, try to imagine that the IR mesh from your phone (or any facial recognition device) is a pin-board toy. Like a pin-board toy, your face leaves an indentation in the IR mesh, where your nose is noticeably deeper than, say, your eyes.

Thermal Imaging Lets Facial Recognition Work at Night

One of the shortcomings of 2D facial recognition is that it relies on the visible spectrum of light. In layman’s terms, basic facial recognition doesn’t work in the dark. But this can be worked around by using a thermal imaging camera (yeah, like in Tom Clancy).

“Wait a minute,” you might say, “doesn’t thermal imaging rely on IR light?” Yes, it does. But thermal imaging cameras don’t send out blasts of IR light; they simply detect the IR light that emits from objects. Warm objects emit a ton of IR light, while cold objects emit a negligible amount of IR light. Expensive thermal imaging cameras can even detect subtle temperature differences across a surface, so the technology ideal for facial recognition.

Three photos. The first is from the visible light spectrum, the second is a still thermal image, and the third is a composite thermal image.
A visible light spectrum image, a thermal image, and a composite thermal image. Polaris Sensor Technologies Inc

There are a handful of different ways to identify a face with thermal imaging. All of these techniques are incredibly complicated, but they share some fundamental similarities, so we’re going to try and keep things simple with a list:

  • Multiple Photos Are Needed: A thermal imaging camera takes multiple pictures of a subject’s face. Each photo focuses on a different spectrum of IR light (long, short, and medium waves). Typically, the long wave spectrum provides the most facial detail.
  • Blood Vessel Maps Are Useful: These IR images can also be used to extract the formation of blood vessels in a person’s face. It’s creepy, but blood vessel maps can be used like unique facial fingerprints. They can also be used to find the distance between facial organs (if typical thermal imaging yields shoddy pictures) or to identify bruises and scars.
  • The Subject Can Be Identified: A composite image (or dataset) is created using multiple IR images. This composite image can then be compared to a facial database to identify the subject.

Of course, thermal facial recognition is usually used by the military, it isn’t something that you’ll find at Khols, and it isn’t something that’ll come with your next cellphone. Plus, thermal imaging doesn’t work well in the daytime (or in generally well-lit environments), so it doesn’t have many potential applications outside of the military.

Limitations of Facial Recognition

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the shortcomings of facial recognition. As we’ve seen from IR and thermal imaging, it’s possible to overcome some of these limitations. But there are still a few problems that haven’t been figured out just yet:

  • Obstruction: As you’d expect, sunglasses and other accessories can trip up facial recognition software.
  • Poses: Facial recognition works best with a neutral, frontward-facing image. A tilt or turn of the head can make facial recognition difficult, even for IR-based recognition software. Additionally, a smile, puffed cheeks, or any other pose can change how a computer measures your face.
  • Light: All forms of facial recognition rely on light, whether it’s visible spectrum or IR light. As a result, weird lighting conditions can decrease the accuracy of facial identification. This may change, as scientists are currently developing sonar-based facial recognition technology.
  • The Database: Without a good database, facial recognition can’t work. Along these same lines, it’s impossible to identify a face that hasn’t been identified correctly in the past.
  • Data Processing: Depending on the size and format of a database, it can take a while for computers to identify faces correctly. In some situations, like policing, limitations in data processing restrict the use of facial identification for everyday applications (which is probably a good thing).

As of right now, the best way around these limitations is to use other forms of identification in conjunction with facial recognition. Your phone will ask for a password or a fingerprint if it fails to identify your face, and the Chinese government uses ID cards and tracking technology to close the margin of error that exists in its facial recognition network.

In the future, scientists will surely find a way to get around these issues. They may use sonar technology alongside lidar to create 3D face maps in any environment, and they may find ways to process face data (and identify strangers) in an incredibly short amount of time. Either way, this technology has a lot of potential for abuse, so it’s worth keeping up with.

Sources: The University of Rijeka, The Electronic Frontier Foundation





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4 Ways to Avoid Facial Recognition Online and in Public

A heated debate continues to rage about the legality of facial recognition software, which is increasingly being used by governments and law enforcement. Not to mention the number of private companies that use some kind of facial recognition.

Many people are concerned about facial recognition software being used to track their movements and the threat to civil liberties that this software poses. While this issue is being debated, there are steps you can take to avoid some facial recognition software, both online and in person.

Why Is Facial Recognition a Concern?

Avoid Facial Recognition - why facial recognition is a concern

Facial recognition works by analyzing images from photos or videos. Software runs though millions of images to identify features related to human faces. These features can then be measured, such as the distance between a pair of eyes. This means the software is becoming more and more adept at not only recognizing faces in general, but also recognizing specific faces.

This has worried many people who consider it an invasion of their privacy for the government or private companies to be able to track where they go in public places. Plus there are security concerns about whether this information could be leaked or misused in another way.

The city of San Francisco has effectively banned the use of facial recognition software, including by the police. And now similar measures are being considered in the UK as well.

The Accuracy of Facial Recognition Software

There are also concerns about the accuracy of facial recognition software. As the technology is new, it can still make mistakes. That means you could be identified as someone else. Or you could find yourself accused of a crime actually committed by another person.

This is a particular problem for people of color and women. The majority of the training data used for the software so far has been images of white men. So the software is most accurate at recognizing white male faces.

Facial recognition is accurate 99% of the time for white men, but can be prone to errors up to 35% of the time for darker-skinned women.

This means people of color and women have more reason to be wary of facial recognition and to worry about its misuse.

How to Avoid Facial Recognition Online

Avoid Facial Recognition - tagged photos
The first step to avoiding facial recognition online is to take care of where photos of you are uploaded.

Social media sites like Facebook have facial recognition algorithms which analyze photos uploaded to the site to make suggestions for who should be tagged in them. When someone tags you in a photo, they are training the algorithm to identify your face more accurately.

You can untag photos of yourself on Facebook, and also ask your friends not to tag you. It’s a good idea to learn about Facebook photo privacy settings


Facebook Photo Privacy Settings You Need To Know About




Facebook Photo Privacy Settings You Need To Know About

As with everything regarding privacy on Facebook, managing your photos’ privacy settings isn’t always easy.
Read More

to find out who can see photos of you. You may also want to make your Instagram account private so your photos aren’t widely shared.

1. Disabling Facial Recognition on Facebook

You should be able to disable automatic face recognition on Facebook.

To disable the feature, go to the Facebook website or app and head to Settings. Then check the left-hand menu, where you should find Face recognition just under Languages.

In this menu, click on Edit. From the option Do you want Facebook to be able to recognize you in photos and videos select No from the drop-down menu, then hit Close. This should save your settings and prevent people from tagging you.

However, according to Consumer Reports, not all Facebook users have access to this feature. If it’s not available for you, you will have to send a complaint to the Facebook support team.

2. Use FaceShield When Uploading Photos

You might still want to share photos online, but not to have them visible to facial recognition software. In that case, you can use the FaceShield tool.

FaceShield is a filter that you apply to your photos before you upload them to a website. It makes only minor changes to the photo to the human eye, but the developers say that it makes faces less visible to facial recognition software. It is currently only available as an online tool, but an app is planned for launch soon.

This will help protect your images from some kinds of facial recognition software, but not all of them. It works on software which has been trained on publicly accessible data sets, like those sold to various security companies. But it won’t work for companies like Facebook which use their own proprietary software.

Still, it’s a useful tool to have to somewhat mitigate how visible your photos are to facial recognition.

How to Avoid Facial Recognition In Person

Avoiding facial recognition online is only half the battle, however. You also need to be aware of all the places where facial recognition is happening in person.

Facial recognition software is commonly used for security at large events. Law enforcement use software to monitor protests and demonstrations. It’s also often found in airports and other high-security locations.

The simplest way to avoid facial recognition in person is to obscure your face with a scarf or balaclava. However, this may be against the law in some places and also has the downside of being very conspicuous. There are few better ways to draw attention to yourself in a crowd than covering your face.

3. Use Hair and Makeup to Fool Facial Recognition

Avoid Facial Recognition - CV Dazzle

An ingenious way to avoid facial recognition is to use a technique like CV Dazzle. This approaches uses bold hair and makeup forms which confuse facial detection software and act as camouflage for your face.

The looks use high contrast makeup, with dark colors on light skin and light colors on dark skin. The hairstyles often partially or completely obscure the nose bridge region between the eyes, which is key to facial identification. The looks are also asymmetrical, as facial recognition software are used to symmetry between the sides of the face.

Applying these techniques takes skill (not to mention a willingness to sport an unusual look) so it’s not for everyone. But if you’re interested, you can download test patterns from the CV Dazzle website or look at online tutorials to learn how to create the effect.

4. Use Clothing to Distract Facial Recognition

Avoid Facial Recognition - HyperFace

Another option is to distract software by overwhelming it with images that look like faces, so it can’t see your face. This is the approach taken by the HyperFace project.

Hyperface uses prints for clothes and other textiles which create “false faces”. Software sees these prints are struggles to differentiate your real face from the simulated faces, making it harder to track you.

These prints aren’t publicly available yet, but in the future they could be a tool against facial recognition.

Avoid Facial Recognition to Protect Your Privacy

Facial recognition technology is a concern to many people. Not only is it a threat to civil liberties in principle, but it is also a new and relatively immature technology. It is not fully accurate and reliable, so it is sensible to be wary of its use by governments, law enforcement, and private companies.

Learn more about how facial recognition is invading your privacy


How Facial Recognition is Invading your Privacy




How Facial Recognition is Invading your Privacy

Is facial recognition — a staple of science fiction for the past 50 years — really a means of oppression, part of a surveillance state and a form of control? Or is it more useful…
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and use these tips to avoid it both online and in person.

Explore more about: Biometrics, Face Recognition, Online Privacy, Surveillance.



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The 3 Best Music Recognition Apps to Find Songs by Their Tune

Shazam is the best-known music recognition app, but is it the best? Join us as we put Shazam up against two competitors: SoundHound and Musixmatch.

We’ll start with a brief overview of each app, followed by several rounds of increasingly difficult music identification challenges.

At the end of the contest we should know which is the best music recognition app to identify songs. May the best app win!

The Best Features in Each Song Finder App

First, let’s look at the biggest features that each “name that tune” app offers.

Shazam

Based on popularity alone, Shazam is the app to beat in this showdown. The app features a simple interface. Upon opening it, you can tap its iconic blue button to start listening for music.

The Discover panel shows news from the music world, including new releases. You can also search for music here to hear previews or add songs to your favorites. The Shazam Charts show you what others are scanning with the app.

Every song you tag is collected in the My Shazam panel, which lets you access a ton of information about the song. Here you can listen to a sample, share it with others, listen to it on Spotify or Apple Music, watch the music video, or find other tracks from that artist.

You can also tap the Settings gear on this page to connect your social accounts and tweak a few preferences. Notably, Shazam has the Auto Shazam feature, which constantly listens for music and IDs it even when you don’t have the app open.

If you’re offline, Shazam will save what it hears and find a match when you’re back online. The app also features Visual Shazam to scan special tags with your camera for additional goodies.

Apple has owned Shazam since September 2018, and the app has been ad-free on Android and iOS since then. For some reason, though, you can still buy the “ad-free” Shazam Encore for $3 on iOS.

Download: Shazam for Android | iOS (Free)

SoundHound

When you look for an app that identifies songs, SoundHound is probably the first competitor to Shazam you’ll find. Its main feature set is similar, but it offers a few differences that make it worth a look.

Similar to Shazam, SoundHound features a big orange button on its homepage to start tagging. SoundHound also makes a big deal out of its support for voice controls. Saying “OK, Hound” allows you to tag music and use other features of the app hands-free. The company even offers a standalone Hound voice assistant app, but there’s not much reason to use it compared to Google Assistant or Siri.

On the Charts tab, you’ll find that SoundHound also features its own music player. This can play samples (or full songs via YouTube or Spotify Premium) you’ve tagged, as well as popular tracks from the charts. After tagging a song, you’re able to purchase it with various services, add it to your favorites, read the lyrics, or see what album the song came from.

Interestingly, SoundHound also supports singing or humming music to identify it. Since other apps don’t do this, we won’t test this feature. SoundHound is supported by ads and offers an upgrade to SoundHound Infinite if you want to remove them.

Download: Soundhound for Android | iOS (Free)
Download: SoundHound Infinite for Android ($6) | iOS ($7)

Musixmatch Lyrics

Our final song identifier app, Musixmatch, used to be paired up with Spotify to provide lyrics. While the two are no longer connected, Musixmatch is another app that recognizes songs as well.

Because Musixmatch is more of a lyrics app than a music ID app, it doesn’t focus on popular charts like the others (though it does show new releases). Instead, you can play music from your local library (or Spotify) through the app to see music lyrics. You’ll also see them when tagging a song.

The app also has a floating lyrics feature, which lets you see lyrics in real-time as you listen to music. In addition to this, if you create an account, you can contribute to lyrics for your favorite songs.

Musixmatch’s premium plan is $3/month and provides a few benefits like letting you save lyrics for offline use, as well as removing the annoying ads. Because of the app’s nature, it won’t work when used offline, so you can’t save tagged music for later like Shazam does.

Due to its unique lyrics angle, Musixmatch is worth keeping around even if you normally use Shazam or SoundHound. Of course, we’ll only compare the app’s ability to correctly identify songs in this battle.

Download: Musixmatch for Android | iOS (Free, subscription available)

Song Recognition App Summary

If you’re picking an app based on looks and features alone, it’s not a clear-cut decision. Shazam is clean and doesn’t feature any ads, while SoundHound has the unique humming and singing feature.

We think Shazam is the best overall choice, but give SoundHound a try to see if it’s right for your needs. As mentioned, Musixmatch makes a great sidekick to either of them.

While there are other apps like Shazam on Google Play on the App Store, these are the three best choices. Sony shuttered its Track ID service a while back, and other apps such as Music ID haven’t seen updates in years. There’s little point in testing them when they’re not in active development.

Music Recognition App Battle: The Rules

Now it’s time to move onto the fun part: pitting these apps against each other. This showdown consists of three rounds containing two songs each.

Since these apps are used to popular music, we don’t want to give them any easy tasks. We’ll start with songs that are relatively unknown before moving onto music that few people have ever heard.

I performed the testing on my Pixel 3 by playing music from Spotify. To simulate a typical use case, each track will start at the one-minute mark. We’ll note how long it takes each app to ID the song.

Each app can take two attempts to identify the song. An app will receive a 10-second penalty for each attempt it fails. And because accuracy is vital for music recognition apps, a 15-second penalty will apply to incorrect identifications.

Round One: Moderate Difficulty

Let’s start off with two tracks that you won’t hear on the radio, but which have their own niches. Both of these songs have under 10,000 plays on Spotify.

Track 1: Alone Tonight by Kiros on A Single Strand (2008)

  • Shazam: Identified the track in 10 seconds.
  • SoundHound: Identified the track in 16 seconds.
  • Musixmatch: Identified the track in six seconds.

Track 2: Did She Ask About Me by Ronnie McDowell on American Music (1989)

  • Shazam: Identified the song in 11 seconds.
  • SoundHound: Failed both attempts (20 second penalty).
  • Musixmatch: Identified the song in four seconds.

After one round, SoundHound is already in trouble with two misses. Shazam identified both tracks, but Musixmatch did it in record speed. We’ll see if it can keep that lead up in the tougher rounds.

Round One Winner: Musixmatch

Round Two: Hard Difficulty

Next, we move into some tracks from the depths of Spotify. Both these songs have under 1,000 plays on the service.

Track 3: Forgotten Planet by RushJet1 on Out There (2017)

Track 4: See Me Through by Orange Is In on Come and Take It (2007)

  • Shazam: Identified the song in 11 seconds.
  • SoundHound: Failed both attempts (20 second penalty).
  • Musixmatch: Identified the song in 13 seconds.

The chiptune track definitely proved difficult for all three apps, with only one attempt out of six succeeding at identifying the song. SoundHound is pretty much out of the race now, but could Shazam catch up to Musixmatch? Let’s move on to the third and final round.

Round Two Winner: Musixmatch

Round Three: Extreme Difficulty

For the final round, we want music that almost nobody has heard. For this, we’ll use Forgotify— a service to discover songs that have zero plays on Spotify. This is perfect music for challenging the music recognition apps.

Track 5: Aroosi by Nader on Khat Va Neshoon (1988)

  • Shazam: Identified the song in 10 seconds.
  • SoundHound: Failed both attempts (20 second penalty).
  • Musixmatch: Failed both attempts (20 second penalty).

Track 6: Liten Suite I Gammel Stil: Andante Cantabile by Barratt-Dues Juniororkester on Asheim/ Kraggerud/ Grieg/ Hellstenius (1999)

  • Shazam: Identified the song in 11 seconds.
  • SoundHound: Failed both attempts (20 second penalty).
  • Musixmatch: Identified the song in four seconds.

Musixmatch had a rare stumble here, while Shazam remained consistent. SoundHound turned out to be really disappointing in this competition.

Round Three Winner: Shazam

And the Winner of the Best Song Finder App Is…

SoundHound comes in a distant third, as it correctly identified only one track out of six. On every other attempt it failed to identify the music, including one incorrect ID. With these 105 seconds of penalties, SoundHound finishes with a time of 121 seconds.

The other two fared much better. Shazam consistently identified songs in around 10 seconds, except for track 4 where it gave two different incorrect IDs. Tallying up its time, Shazam took 53 seconds to ID the songs. Adding the 30 penalty seconds gives us 83 seconds total for Shazam.

That leaves us with just Musixmatch. While the app stumbled a bit more than Shazam did, its overall time to ID was faster. Its total time was 33 seconds; adding penalties of 35 seconds means that Musixmatch finishes with a score of 68 seconds.

This means that the best song recognition app is Musixmatch!

The choice is clear on this one. Not only was Musixmatch the only app to identify track 3, but it consistently recognized songs in half the time that Shazam took. You can thus have confidence in Musixmatch as a great app to both display lyrics and identify music.

Which Music Identifier App Do You Prefer?

Were you surprised by these results? In the past, Shazam has come out on top, so Musixmatch must have been hard at work recently making its recognition system better. It’s a shame that the app has annoying ads, so if you don’t want to put up with them, Shazam is still a great choice.

If these tracks have got you wishing for fresh tunes, take a look at some ways to discover new music you will love


7+ Easy Ways to Discover New Music You Will Love




7+ Easy Ways to Discover New Music You Will Love

The depth and breadth of music to be discovered these days is mind-boggling. The problem is knowing where to look. We’re here to help with an incredible list of resources just for you.
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Explore more about: Android Apps, Indie Music, iOS Apps, Music Discovery, Musixmatch, Shazam, SoundHound, Streaming Music.



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