How to Thwart Facial Recognition and Other Surveillance

Mask Up, Be Safe

Facial-recognition tech can see around hoodies or big shades, so pair them with a face covering. Plus, you’ll get protection against coronavirus particles and tear gas. There are makeup tutorials online for edgy face paint intended to trick face-recognizing algorithms, but these designs are unproven. Also, it’s probably easier for humans to track you if you look like a member of Insane Clown Posse.

Dress to Unimpress

Make yourself less memorable to both humans and machines by wearing clothing as dark and pattern-free as your commitment to privacy. Clothing search is a common feature of video surveillance software; it helps analysts track a person across different camera feeds. In other words, don’t be the only search result for “chartreuse pants.” Also, keep the rad tats and Manic Panicked hair hidden.

photo illustration of a blurred out face

Delete the Deets

Loose tweets compromise your peeps. Strip metadata like location tags from your phone pics by sharing screenshots of images, not the images themselves. Keep any identifying visual information obscured too. The encrypted messaging app Signal (which you should be using anyway) includes a feature that blurs faces in photos, helping you share in solidarity while foiling face-finding algorithms.

Stay Cool

To live is to radiate thermal energy, making you easily visible to an infrared camera even in a dark forest or urban jungle. Researchers at UC San Diego recently invented a way to potentially mask your heat signature like a thermal chameleon with a device that heats up or cools down to match the temperature of your surroundings. Unfortunately, the current prototype is only the size of a sweatband. Until there’s a full-body version, be careful out there.

Lose Your Car

Logging license plates used to require specialized cameras, but now the software is so cheap that even small police departments and neighborhood associations can afford it. Today, many local and state agencies in the US share what they see via a nationwide database that can track vehicles over long distances. Cycling or walking cuts both your surveillance and ecological footprint.

Run Facial Interference

The cover of darkness can be quickly uncovered by flashguns and infrared cameras. Reflectacles’ Ghost glasses ($164) shroud your face by bouncing back incoming light to dazzle conventional cameras. And the lenses are opaque to infrared sensors, so—bonus!—they also block facial-recognition systems that use 3D imaging, like the iPhone’s Face ID.


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