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Picture this: the year is 2077 and the world has become a dystopia. You’re huddled in with a weary group of people in the ruins of an underground subway station. Aside from the occasional rustle here and there, it’s painfully quiet. But every so often, you can hear the whizzing sounds of the drones overhead.
“They’re making their rounds again,” speaks someone from the huddle.
Everyone shifts their focus to the voice for a brief moment of fear before turning their gaze to the ceiling. The group is filled with people of all ages and backgrounds. They don’t look like they know each other, but something tells you they stick close. Nearly all of them are wearing jackets with the same symbol printed on the arm. It all finally clicks in; they’re part of the resistance.
But it’s their tattered bodies and sullen expressions that give them away. They fought the [Redacted]… and they lost.
Suddenly, the silence breaks by the sounds of the whizzing cop drones, but something’s off. They keep getting louder and louder. A man from the huddle points his trembling finger down the dark subway tunnel. He seems like he wants to shout something but doesn’t have the breath to do it.
Looking down the tunnel, you can see the constant blinking lights of the drones getting closer. The feeling of impending doom is starting to build up in the group. Everyone scrambles to get away to safety – everyone except you.
There’s no point trying to outrun the drones. They can catch up to anyone within seconds of their life. Once they ID your face with the [Redacted]’s database, you’re practically done for.
However, in this moment of panic, you remember something. It’s an old myth that was passed around the city’s hideouts. It had something to do with a way of beating the drones for good. No one has really tried it so far due to a lack of intrepidness to do so. However, staring down an ever-growing murderous intent, it’s your best chance.
You rifle through your belongings in your knapsack trying to find it. All the while, you can hear the traumatic whizzing and whirring closing in on your location.
Finally, you pull it out – a makeup palette. You begin furiously applying the makeup to your face in the prescribed patterns. Your hands are only stopped by the loud whizzing a few feet from you.
Suddenly, you look up and your face meets the drone’s camera lens with inches to spare. It begins scanning your face from top to bottom, trying to take in every feature, every bump and crevice that it can.
After a few minutes, it retreats and starts processing. Your mind starts running wild with fears, thinking about the all the possible outcomes that can happen.
“ID MISMATCH. NO MATCHES DETECTED.”
And that’s that. It whizzes by, ignoring you. You get to live another day in your struggle to survive.
Let’s get back to reality.
While the idea of beating facial identification technology sounds good for a fictional setting, it’s not too far off from reality. Fake IDs are paving the way for youngsters to bypass security scanners. However, some day in future we might be witnessing the best fake ID websites to be ranked on the criteria of beating facial identification. We’re living in an age where technology like this is advancing quickly. After all, if you can unlock your phone by doing nothing but pointing your face at it, why can’t the same tech be used to ID you?
We’re already looking at countries like China ready to implement nationwide facial recognition systems to maintain order and hinder dissent. It’s not too farfetched to assume that it could be our inevitable future as well.
Surprisingly, there’s already an unexpected way to beat it. In a weird turn of events, it just so happens that clown makeup beats facial ID dead in its tracks. Thus, if you’re looking for a way to protect yourself from our future tyrannical overlords, this might be it.
If all this sounds like a big out-of-season April Fool’s joke, I don’t blame you. However, as the saying goes, truth really is stranger than fiction. So, let’s try and make sense of this weirdness.
First off, you need to understand how facial ID works in the first place. To put it simply, a camera takes pictures of your face. From there on, an algorithm is used to analyze the key features of your face. These include things like your eyes, nose, lips and cheekbones.
The features are then carefully processed and compared with a known record of your face. If both samples have similar features, it ends up being a successful match.
Of course, this system is far from perfect. Things like glasses, hats or even lighting have been known to mess it up. While it has advanced to the point where it can deal with those things fairly well, it is still not perfect.
It’s hard to tell why clown makeup ends up working so well to hinder face ID. The whole thing was discovered purely by accident by someone on Twitter trying to run the band Insane Clown Posse’s images through facial recognition.
It turns out that specific color and pattern of clown makeup can really end up messing with the recognition algorithms. The harsh blacks contrasting with the white base confuse the algorithm into not being able to tell where key facial features are. Things like chins, eyes, and noses are hard to pin down with the makeup on.
It works so well because it’s not something the software expects or is used to. Plus, because no two patterns are the same, it makes it almost impossible for the algorithm to spot a face.
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about this loophole is to find out just how far it works. There are a few examples of this technique working well in some cases and not so much in others. The same user that discovered it also put together a few brief examples of it in action.
As it turns out, how well the makeup works depends on how you’re using it. Full-blown clown makeup tends to work the best, while lightly applied patches don’t seem to do much. Hence, if you’re thinking of pulling a Houdini on your face, your choices are limited to traditional clown makeup or KIϟϟ-style face paint.
You might find it easy to be dismissive about the whole idea because it comes across as ridiculous. However, before you shove it aside, try to think about what it could potentially mean for you.
We live in an age where keeping tabs on someone is easier than ever. At no point in time has staying under the radar been more important than now. It’s only going to get harder as time moves on and our technology advances.
Now, it’s not exactly practical for you to walk around looking like Pennywise all the time. However, this is a step forward in learning how to take back control in the age of surveillance and lack of privacy.
While a dystopian future isn’t due for another few decades, it isn’t hard to see things heading there. Before you let the effects of large-scale surveillance and monitoring put you down, it’s nice to know that there are still ways to defeat it. If it means having to dress up as a third-rate birthday clown, that’s a sacrifice worth making for humanity.