Facebook-fooling shirts to foil auto-tagging

Simone C. Niquille's REALFACE Glamoflage shirts are designed to confound Facebook's face-recognition software by covering you in famous faces when you venture into public. The project was sparked by a(nother) privacy-undermining Facebook terms-of-service change, this one allowing the company to auto-tag the people in the photos you upload. The shirts were part of FaceValue, a master's thesis in design at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, and Niquille's explanation of her work is fascinating:

The shirts, custom-printed for around $65, are one of three such imaginings–a tongue-halfway-in-cheek tool for pushing back against the emerging trends of ubiquitous, computer-aided recognition. Covered in distorted faces of celebrity impersonators, they’re designed to keep Facebook’s algorithms guessing about what–or more accurately who–they’re looking at.

“I was interested in the T-shirt as a mundane commodity,” Niquille explains. “An article of clothing that in most cases does not need much consideration in the morning in front of the closet…I was interested in creating a tool for privacy protection that wouldn’t require much time to think in the morning, an accessory that would seamlessly fit in your existing everyday. No adaption period needed.” It’s the dress-down version of the anti-drone hoodie.

Inspired in part by the “ugly t-shirt,” a garment dreamed up by William Gibson that would provide invisibility to CCTV surveillance, Niquille thinks of her shirts as “facial recognition dazzle,” referring to a unique brand of camouflage employed by ships in World War I. Pioneered by artist Norman Wilksinson, dazzle camouflage involved covering warships in conflicting geometric patterns to throw off an enemy combatant’s ability to gauge their speed, range, size and heading. “The shirts attempt a similar strategy. They won’t keep your face from being recognized, but they will offer distraction,” he explains. Their real-world efficacy, Niquille says, depends on how baggy the shirt is on the wearer: the tighter the better for giving Facebook’s software something to zero-in on.

Weird T-Shirts Designed To Confuse Facebook’s Auto-Tagging [Kyle VanHemert/Wired]