AVG unveils ‘privacy glasses’ to combat face detection at MWC

AVG claims to have developed glasses that make the wearer ‘invisible’ to systems that work based on facial recognition. The glasses transmit infrared light and contain materials with retro-reflective properties.

Developed by AVG Innovation Labs and a prototype of which will be shown at Mobile World Congress, the ‘privacy glasses’ contain a number of LEDs around the bridge of the nose that emit infrared light. The light would confuse some facial recognition algorithms if cameras sensitive to infrared light are used. However, AVG notes that many cameras in mobile phones, for example, have an infrared filter, which makes this method ineffective.

According to the makers, a second line of defense is raised by using materials with retro-reflective properties for the frame. Unlike normal reflectors, retroreflectors can send light back in the exact same direction it came from. AVG states that this method only works if a flash is used when taking a photo. In that case, the image sensor may give a distorted image. However, cameras that use a wider dynamic range are less affected by retroreflection.

AVG states that the prototype of the privacy glasses should mainly be seen as a ‘proof of concept’, in which researchers develop methods to ‘escape’ the growing use of facial recognition systems. AVG cites Facebook’s DeepFace technology and Google’s StreetView as examples of potential privacy threats.