In recent years, companies have been prowling the web for public photos associated with people’s names that they can use to build enormous databases of faces and improve their facial-recognition systems, adding to a growing sense that personal privacy is being lost, bit by digital bit.A start-up called Clearview AI, for example, scraped billions of online photos to build a tool for police that could lead them from a face to a Facebook account, revealing a person’s identity.Now researchers are trying to foil those systems. A team of computer engineers at the University of Chicago has developed a tool that disguises photos with pixel-level changes that confuse facial recognition systems.
Named Fawkes in honor of the Guy Fawkes mask favored by protesters worldwide, the software was made available to developers on the researchers’ website last month. After being discovered by Hacker News, it has been downloaded more than 50,000 times. The researchers are working on a free app version for noncoders, which they hope to make available soon.