Facial recognition is quickly becoming ubiquitous. You already see it in border checks and airports, but also in shopping centers, museums, and conference centers. Many people actually voluntarily employ facial recognition for their personal data security on their phones. But, here’s some good news: Big Brother isn’t really all that smart.
Researchers at the AI intelligence firm Kneron tested facial recognition systems on three continents with a very simple ruse: they printed a 3-D mask depicting a different person’s face.
Remarkably, they were able to fool border checkpoints in China, as well as payment tablets operated by Alipay and WeChat. European systems weren’t any better as the same trick worked against facial recognition at a passport-control gat at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.
“Technology providers should be held accountable if they do not safeguard users to the highest standards,” Kneron CEO Albert Liu said in a statement. “There are so many companies involved that it highlights an industry-wide issue with substandard facial recognition tech.”
However, cardboard printed face wasn’t enough to fool Apple’s Face ID and Huawei’s facial recognition software. These systems are more sophisticated, employing something called structured light imaging to recognize a person’s face.
The investigation shows that there are many potential vulnerabilities embedded in today’s facial recognition systems, which many companies and governments have been all too quick to embrace. If a simple mask can be used to impersonate someone to access their banking, make payments on their behalf, or even undergo terrorist activities, what else could happen?
Tibi is a science journalist and co-founder of ZME Science. He writes mainly about emerging tech, physics, climate, and space. In his spare time, Tibi likes to make weird music on his computer and groom felines.