London artists called the Dazzle Club use makeup to defy facial recognition technology

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The artists use colorful geometric shapes on faces in a design they call “reverse contouring”.

Once per month, a group of artists calling themselves the Dazzle Club have been making their way through the streets of London with strategically painted faces.

Camera and facial recognition surveillance on London streets are heavy throughout the city.

The Dazzle Club has become a monthly gathering as a component of an open-source project that tests various strategies to dodge facial recognition technology. The tech is widespread throughout the city of London and is used by their Metropolitan police. The artists test various types of makeup patterns on the face in order to make it impossible for the tech to recognize the wearer’s face.

“You paint your face in a specific way … that will then scramble your face against automatic facial recognition systems so that your face is no longer recognized,” said Emily Roderick, the co-founder of the group. “We describe it as reverse contouring, or kind of you’re really looking to de-emphasize parts of your face that are normally quite prominent.”

The Dazzle Club’s makeup stops the facial recognition software from mapping identifying features.

Facial recognition software functions by scanning facial features, mapping them, and comparing them to those in existing databases in an attempt to discover a match. Over the last few years, this tech has expanded in capacity and usage, moving away from simply tagging photos in public apps to working in massive law enforcement agency networks.

Earlier this month, London’s police force released an announcement saying it would be using “live facial recognition” cameras as a new component of the city’s existing CCTV surveillance network. This immediately drew criticism from privacy advocates in the United Kingdom.

“As a modern police force, I believe that we have a duty to use new technologies to keep people safe in London. Independent research has shown that the public support us in this regard,” said Nick Ephgrave, assistant commissioner.

Dazzle Club co-founder Roderick stated that one of her largest worries about the use of the technology is that suspects in London will be falsely identified, particularly in the case of people with darker skin tones.

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