Black Friday

AVG demos new anti-facial recognition glasses

Ray Walsh

Ray Walsh

March 3, 2015

Here at Best VPN we have always got our eyes open for the next big privacy related gadget, and that is why when we heard about the new glasses AVG were demonstrating at this week’s technology showcase in Barcelona (Pepcom), we thought we best get news of the snazzy looking eye wear to you as soon as possible.

These glasses might only be a prototype, but AVG have definitely hit a nail on the head, as it does not matter whether you are out on the town when you’re meant to be off work sick (and you do not want any of your colleagues to find out,) or you are at a party when you told your partner that you would stay in and watch movies for the weekend – these glasses are a godsend – if you want to avoid being snapped up and then auto-tagged by Facebook’s facial recognition software.


With the rise of the smart phone, the chances of an unsolicited photo of you suddenly appearing on the internet are very very high. I myself have already had the experience of waking up on a Monday morning to find myself tagged in photos dancing at an outdoor party all weekend, when I had told my girlfriend that I would just be going to bed early! On this occasion I did not have any plans with the woman in question, but I didn’t really want to invite her to the party, lest it spoil my unrestrained fun. Oops. Caught out.

There are a million reasons why people might not want to get snapped up in unsolicited photos,  mostly for private and personal reasons – perhaps a person does not want to be spotted out of curfew by the law if they are out on parole – or maybe a person has a court order against them and has to be back at their registered address by a certain time.


Maybe you simply do not like the idea of corporations like Facebook using programs such as DeepFace to start compiling databases of your images, or maybe you feel uncomfortable with the idea of intelligence agencies taking photos of you with an unfettered ability to later cross-reference those images, and build up a profile on you doing things that you would rather were kept private – perhaps if you are an activist photographed at protest rallies.

With the rise of projects such as Google Street View there is also going to be more and more chances to be photographed unsolicited in the future, so these glasses are great idea when it comes to a need for privacy in a sector that is only going to keep growing.

The technology itself works on the idea of light distortion, and was first demonstrated to work by Isao Echizen of the Tokyo National Institute of Informatics. The basic concept is that light in the infrared spectrum fires around the face’s most important features (such as the nose, eyes and forehead) making it impossible for facial recognition to ‘make’ the subject… crude but effective.


The second (and perhaps more useful) method used in the AVG prototype is the adoption of retro-reflective materials, which work at the moment that the photo is taken by sending light from the camera’s flash back into the camera, making it hard for facial recognition to do its job.  This might, on the surface, seem a little limited, but with the rise of nano-materials we can be hopeful that new substances that can cleverly diffract and even bend light around the face will have similar recognition-avoiding properties in the future.

Of course, this prototype does not have the most subtle or fashionable of designs – they are not quite up to the standard of some Ray Ban’s yet, but AVG has made a good start on a useful idea, and as with everything, the design is likely to improve over time. Perhaps one day we will be able to walk down the street wearing something inconspicuous, and maybe even cool looking, that can protect our eyes from the sun’s harmful rays, while also hampering the efforts of facial recognition software.

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