Clothing, watches and other wearable devices are quickly becoming mainstream and while most people are using them to connect one man is creating wearables of a very different sort. Dr. Isao Echizen of Japan’s National Institute of Informatics has a problem with the prevalence of digital surveillance and he has developed wearable technology aimed at obscuring one’s face from creepy facial recognition software, currently being used everywhere from airports to baseball games.
His most recent innovation is the result of two year’s research and is composed of a pair of specially crafted eyeglasses that confuse facial recognition software from resolving the user’s face into a recognizable image. Previous attempts by Echizen involved mounting infrared LEDs to a regular pair of glasses in order to achieve the same effect, but the new design is slightly less funky yet equally effective.
Echizen’s glasses use a pinhole-mesh material for lenses, which has been shown effective at defeating facial recognition 90% of the time. Although not as awkward as his previous attempts, the new glasses may increase the difficulty of driving or biking, and your Facebook friends will still be able to tag your blurred out face.
As governments and big corporations increase the reach of their surveillance powers Dr Echizen’s technologies look set to become less fringe and more mainstream. While governments argue that everyone including law enforcement should be under surveillance civilians are not representatives of the state, and do not hold police powers. Constant surveillance carries both a presumption of guilt and negative effect on liberty which goes against fundamentally American principles.
While Dr Echizen’s glasses go against the recent trend in wearable technology of sharing more they are closely aligned to hard-won American values of personal freedom and liberty. It raises interesting questions of just what rights citizens have to not be tracked and what technological countermeasures there are to the ever increasing surveillance dragnet.
Part artist and part scientist, Dr Echizen is pioneering technological advancements in civil liberties protection while at the same time raising important questions about what rights citizens have in the digital age and what can be done to ensure they are preserved.