Protect the privacy of… your face?

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Anti-Google Glasses
Stylish… or just plain awkward?

When I first heard of face recognition technology for Google Glass – Google’s high-tech glasses – it seemed like the most futuristic gadget ever. What really caught my interest, though,  was when I heard there were people working on a way to prevent one of the features Google Glass has. What is this feature and why would someone want to stop it?

There are companies currently working on face recognition abilities for Google Glass. With this software, a person using the glasses could potentially look at a stranger and find things out about them such as their name and other personal information just by scanning their face.

Sounds amazing right? Also, very creepy. Just by looking at you, someone could instantly know where you live, where you work, and who knows what else! Japan might have the answer for those worried about their privacy, even if it looks a bit silly. Their National Institute of Informatics has developed a pair of glasses focused on preventing face recognition software from seeing you.

The anti-face recognition glasses work by using 11 light-emitting diodes (LED) that glow with near-infrared light. What’s cool is normal human eyes don’t see the near-infrared, so you won’t be blinding other human beings as you walk down the streets looking funky. A camera, though, will find its sight partially blocked by the LED.  This makes it tough for face recognition software to see your face and analyze it. It’s kind of like being in a dimly lit room when someone shines a flashlight in your eyes. You can’t see anything behind the light, can you?

 National Institute of Informatics associate professor, Isao Echizen, says, “Light from these near-infrared LEDs can’t be seen by the human eye, but when it passes through the camera’s imaging device, it appears bright.”

The downside side is, if the face recognizing cameras are not sensitive to infrared lighting, these glasses will have no effect. This doesn’t discourage the researchers, however, who are also working on glasses that will use different types of materials – especially reflective ones – to work against “spyglasses” like Google Glass.

Soon enough, we may have half the people on the street walking around with Google Glass and the other half blocking their face recognition! Okay, maybe not, but it’s interesting to think about.

Images and video courtesy of Diginfo TV.