Contradictory makeup: your contouring skills could beat facial recognition

Facial recognition is everywhere these days. Cloud servers scan every image uploaded to social media, phone cameras help put names to faces, and CCTV systems are used to track citizens in their daily lives. You may want to avoid this without arousing suspicion, just for a little privacy every now and then. As it turns out, common makeup techniques can help you do just that.

As part of research conducted by a group at Ben-Gurion University in the Negev, the team tested whether careful makeup contouring techniques could trick a facial recognition system. There aren’t any wild stripes or dazzling patterns here; these techniques relate to natural looks and are used by makeup artists every day.

The trick is to use a surrogate facial recognition system and a photo of the person who intends to evade. Digital techniques are used to alter a person’s appearance until they cheat on the facial recognition system. This is then used as a guide for a makeup artist to recreate using typical contouring techniques.

The theory was tested with a two-camera system in a hallway. The individual was identified correctly in 47.57% of the images in which a face was detected without makeup. With random makeup, that figure dropped to 33.73%, but with the application of the team’s intentionally designed makeup scheme, the attacker was only identified in 1.22% of the footage.

The attack is based on having a good substitute for the facial recognition system that you want to cheat. Otherwise, it is difficult to properly design a proper natural looking makeup to trick the system. However, it shows the power of contouring to completely change your look, both in front of humans and machines!

Facial recognition remains a controversial subject, but nothing is stopping its deployment across the world. Indeed, your facial profile may already be there. Paper after the break.

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About Roberto Frank

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