Urban Camouflage: Can You Hide from Technology?

Surveillance Camera

In the early 70’s the NYPD installed CCTV cameras throughout New York City in the hopes of deterring crime. The recorded images were of course, also used to help identify criminals after a crime was committed. The theory was and still is if a person knows or suspects they are being recorded, they would be less apt to commit a crime.

The point is of course that whenever you are in a public place the chances of being recorded is high. Cell phones cameras, drones and video surveillance systems in private homes are pervasive in today’s society and virtually any business will have a surveillance system installed as well.

Facial Recognition Software

Each face has a number of distinguishable, so-called landmarks, which are called nodal points by experts, and there are roughly 80 points that can be measured by facial recognition software.

Some of the nodal points measured that are a determining factor include:

  • The distance between eyes
  • Nose width
  • Eye socket depth
  • Cheekbone shape
  • Jaw line length

Facial recognition software has been around since the early 60’s but until recently, the programs used were limited in scope and it was found that in many cases, humans had a higher success in identifying someone. However, advances in technology have surpassed human capabilities and so now, many law enforcement agencies and even private business are using the software.

You may find facial recognition at large sporting events and anywhere the public at large would gather for special occasions. Airports, government buildings and some private corporations routinely use the software.

Advances in the future may include the use of the software at ATM machines. Your face may be scanned before you can withdraw money from the machine. This of course means that if someone steals your ATM, debit or credit card that person would not be able to withdraw money from any machine using the software because his or her face is not associated with the card (s).

For the software to work it needs a database of pictures in which to compare real times images. However, this does not stop the systems from establishing patterns. The computer system can track a person by their actions, or pattern of actions and that person does not need to be in the database.

A person may appear in once place today and another tomorrow and the system is noting all this and establishing a pattern that can be reviewed by humans if enough “red flags” appear. The red flags would be in most cases pre-determined by human programmers.

There are Things You Can Do to Appear Invisible

Your picture is in the system if you have or have had a picture identification card issued by any governmental agency. Identification (ID) would include state issued driver’s licenses, certain other identification cards, military ID, postal worker ID and anyone that has worked for or is currently working for any governmental agency will have picture identification and thus their picture is in a database somewhere.

The government can access private databases kept by private companies in some cases, and many privately owned companies’ issue picture identification cards. The natural aging process does not confuse the software, so old pictures can be used, because the bone in the nose bridge, for example, does not naturally alter itself with age. The altering has to be done artificially.

Things You Can Do

Makeup can change your face, and the nose is one of the first things that you can alter, because the shape and size is an important indicator for the software.

Keep in mind that any facial recognition software system is programmed by humans and a person cannot possible think up all of the possible variations, so the system can be confused, for a lack of a better term, when it comes to picking you out of a crowd.

  • Makeup putty can alter the shape and size of facial features especially the bridge of the nose
  • Comb your hair so it hangs over parts of the face
  • Contrasting makeup can alter the face by using darker colors on light reflective parts of the face such as cheekbones and foreheads and use lighter colors in eyes that are shadowed like the space between the cheekbones and nose, lower lip, under the chin and so on, the jaw length and shape is a crucial point for the software so altering the shape and how light reflects is helpful
  • Part your hair on a different side of the head or part down the middle and let it hang over parts of the forehead, ears and cheekbones, you can use wigs but alter the wig the next time you go out
  • Use various eyeliner colors that sparkle and obscure light, your objective is to alter the eyes’ shape and depth of the eyes by using colors
  • Wearing eyeglasses when you normally do not, does not work well because this is one variable that can be programmed into the system to be overlooked because they are so common

Computers can identify you by your gait as well, so carry a cane and use it, hunch slightly and do what you can to alter your gait. In most cases, you will not fool a sophisticated system with a few simple alterations but in combination with other things you have done, you may very well fool the system.

Remember patterns can be established and in most cases, you do not realize your life is a series of patterns. You are scoffing already, but it is true and if you pay attention to what you are doing every day, you will realize there is a pattern there.

It is Not Just You Being Tracked It is Your Vehicle As Well

Certain cameras designed to take snap shots of license plates are very common today and some police cars have these cameras installed. Tollbooths take a picture of your plates, as do most service stations when you pull up to pump fuel for your vehicle. Drones, can take a picture of your vehicle plates as well as certain aircraft.

It is extremely difficult to operate under the radar so you must operate without raising any red flags that would cause anyone to investigate further. Your first thought is to pay with cash and to stay off line but in today’s world these two things are a red flag and if you pay with cash everywhere you will get on someone’s radar especially if the purchases are large ones.

  • Use cash to purchases debit/gift cards with small balances on them that can be used once and tossed away
  • Use social media but limit yourself and do not post any personal information, because some people may considered it abnormal if you do not have a social media account

You will always be on the radar but you want to be just one of millions that does not stand out and cause someone to look at you any more closely than they already are.