Meet Isao Echizen.
Professor Echizen is a researcher at Japan’s National Institute of Informatics, and he believes he’s come up with a high-tech way for people to not only avoid having their photo taken by irritating hipsters wearing Google Glass(es), but also to avoid detection by all manner of facial recognition cameras.
According to the researcher, the widespread use of smartphones with digital cameras and the adoption of facial recognition software by social networks has created an “invasion of privacy problems”.
For instance, social networks like Facebook have encouraged the public to reveal more about themselves online, including images of what they look like, and smartphone cameras typically have the ability to embed inside the picture the latitude and longitude of where a photograph was taken.
Meanwhile, search engines can be instructed to only return results which contain pictures of people’s faces, or from a particular geographic region.
Understandably, many people are concerned about their private business unintentionally becoming public.
And the introduction of news technologies like Google Glass(es) *is* changing the game, as historically CCTV cameras owned by private businesses would typically have their footage wiped after a few days. With Google Glass(es), smartphone cameras and social networks, the images may be kept and accessible forever.
The unintentional capture of facial images has become, says the professor, “a social problem”. And it’s not one that can be avoided by just wearing sunglasses – apparently facial recognition software doesn’t need to be able to see your eyes to identify a face, they can use information gathered by seeing your nose and ears too.
Professor Ezichen proposes a pair of “Anti-Google Glasses” – eyewear which transmit near-infrared rays, generating visual “noise” which is invisible to the naked eye, but makes the face in captured images undetectable to many cameras.
See the following video for a demonstration:
Hmm. Nice prototype. But I’m not sure I can imagine many people wearing those out in daylight where they might be spotted.
And do you really need such a high tech solution to solve this problem, anyway?
Here are some “privacy shields” from Italian outfit Veasyble:
The Italian brains behind Veasyble have a wonderful explanation of their project, which is worth repeating in full:
The project is based on three keywords: isolation, intimacy and ornament. It consists of a set of wearable objects that can be converted into means of isolation, to create a personal intimacy in any environment. The idea derives from a reflection on the change in our relationship with the domestic environment, due to the effects of our increasing mobility, and how this has affected our concept of intimacy, creating new demands. This led to the design of four accessories, screen for four different parts of the body: eyes, ears, face and upper body, expressing, through their shape and colour, our desire for intimacy at any time, any place, on various levels.
An ornament that can be worn.
A gesture to transform it.
A secret place for personal intimacy.
A reminder of our exterior aspect.
Now that that’s got you in the mood, here’s an animated GIF I made demonstrating how you can be reminded of your exterior aspect and taken to a secret place for personal intimacy courtesy of Veasyble. I think this really demonstrates just how easy and practical a privacy shield can be.
I think we can definitely say that no-one is going to be showing you any unwanted attention if you wear that in the street.
Professor Isao Echizen seems a pleasant enough chap in his video, and it will be interesting to see where his research takes him. Joking aside, there is clearly a need for some sort of greater control over how many of us are being digitally captured multiple times a day.
Wearable privacy masks are probably not the solution as they suffer from a fatal design flaw: they interfere with face-to-face communication.
Wearers of Google Glass(es) on the other hand don’t suffer from this problem. As nobody wants to be seen anywhere near them.
Further reading: “Privacy Protection Techniques Using Differences in Human and Device Sensitivity – Protecting Photographed Subjects against Invasion of Privacy Caused by Unintentional Capture in Camera Images”