Artificial intelligence is giving rise to unprecedented capabilities for surveillance, from facial recognition at bridge crossings to the ability to identify thousands of people at once. Now, new research suggests that AI could potentially be used to identify people who have taken steps to conceal their identities by wearing hats, sunglasses, or scarves over their faces.
The paper, accepted to appear in a computer vision conference workshop next month and detailed in Jack Clark’s ImportAI newsletter, shows that identifying people covering their faces is possible, but there’s a long way to go before it’s accurate enough to be relied upon. Researchers used a deep-learning algorithm—a flavor of artificial intelligence that detects patterns within massive amounts of data—to find specific points on a person’s face and analyze the distance between those points. When asked to compare a face concealed by a hat or scarf against photos of five people, the algorithm was able to correctly identify the person 56% of the time. If the face was also wearing glasses, that number dropped to 43%.
But those imperfect results don’t mean the paper should be ignored. The team, with members from the University of Cambridge, India’s National Institute of Technology, and the Indian Institute of Science, also released two datasets of disguised and undisguised faces for others to test and improve the technology. (Data has been shown to be a key component for driving progress in the field of AI; when deep-learning algorithms have more data to analyze, they can identify patterns in the data with greater accuracy.)
The algorithm for identifying disguised faces maps 14 points on a person’s face, and then uses the distance between those points to identify them again in other images. The points mainly focus on the area around the eyes, but also designate the tip of the nose and corners of the mouth. (The placement of these…