A group of London artists known as the Dazzle Club are using makeup to protest the Metropolitan Police’s rapidly expanding face-based surveillance program. To that end, the group has been going on monthly walks through the city while wearing makeup that is designed to hide their faces from the city’s facial recognition cameras.
The makeup does not make the wearer invisible – in fact, the pattern is quite distinct to the naked eye – but the Dazzle Club claims that it will prevent a facial recognition algorithm from generating a match. The artists note that facial recognition technology identifies people based on the geometric features of their face, so their makeup tries to obscure those features with different colors and sharper geometric images.
At the moment, it’s unclear if the technique is enough to fool a sophisticated facial recognition algorithm. The London Metropolitan Police refused to comment on the efficacy of the strategy.
The Metropolitan Police first announced that it would be launching a facial recognition network back in January. The force has since moved forward with a deployment at the Stratford Centre shopping area despite heavy opposition from British privacy advocates. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) recently asked the Met to suspend the program until its impact is more fully understood.
In the meantime, the Dazzle Club will try to raise the public’s awareness of the issue. The group has cancelled its March walk due to separate concerns about the coronavirus, but will still livestream a collection of songs and readings, and host a discussion about facial recognition.
March 18, 2020 – by Eric Weiss