Engineers develop tool called 'Fawkes' to protect online photos from facial recognition

WION Web Team Chicago, United States Aug 04, 2020, 04.13 PM(IST) Aug 04, 2020, 04.52 PM(IST)

Singapore to become first to use facial verification in national ID. Representative image. Photograph:( Reuters )

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In the researchers' parlance, Fawkes "cloaks" an image by subtly altering some of the features that facial recognition systems depend on when they construct a person's face print.

Computer engineers in Chicago have developed a tool to protect one's online photos from facial recognition.

In an attempt to foil facial recognition technologies, the researchers from the University of Chicago have has developed a tool that disguises photos with pixel-level changes that confuse facial recognition systems.

The tool called Fawkes, named after Guy Fawkes, the software was made available to developers on the researchers' website last month.

It has been downloaded more than 50,000 times after a free app version was introduced for non-coders.

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In the researchers' parlance, Fawkes "cloaks" an image by subtly altering some of the features that facial recognition systems depend on when they construct a person's face print.

The tool and be a broadside if it is deployed against facial recognition systems, poisoning the accuracy of the data sets they gather from the Web.

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Dr Ben Zhao, a professor of computer science at the University of Chicago, said "Our goal is to make Clearview go away."

Many tech companies use scrapes billions of online photos to build tools for police to reveal a person's identity. This includes the infacial recognition technology company Clearview AI.

The New York-based company bills itself as a tool for law enforcement, scraping the internet for publicly available photos and using facial recognition to identify potential suspects and victims.

Critics raised concerns earlier this year about the lack of consent of those searched and the potential for misuse of the service, leading to a joint investigation launched in February into the company by the privacy commissioners of British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and the federal government.

The company is under investigation in Britain, Canada, and Australia where Clearview said it would no longer offer its facial recognition services.

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