AI Can Recognize Your Face Even If You’re Pixelated | WIRED

PIXELATION HAS LONG been a familiar fig leaf to cover our visual media’s most private parts. Blurred chunks of text or obscured faces and license plates show up on the news, in redacted documents, and online. The technique is nothing fancy, but it has worked well enough, because people can’t see or read through the distortion. The problem, however, is that humans aren’t the only image recognition masters around anymore. As computer vision becomes increasingly robust, it’s starting to see things we can’t.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and Cornell Tech say that they’ve trained a piece of software that can undermine the privacy benefits of standard content-masking techniques like blurring and pixelation by learning to read or see what’s meant to be hidden in images—anything from a blurred house number to a pixelated human face in the background of a photo. And they didn’t even need to painstakingly develop extensive new image uncloaking methodologies to do it. Instead, the team found that mainstream machine learning methods—the process of “training” a computer with a set of example data rather than programming it—lend themselves readily to this type of attack.

The researchers were able to defeat three privacy protection technologies, starting with YouTube’s proprietary blur tool. YouTube allows uploaders to select objects or figures that they want to blur, but the team used their attack to identify obfuscated faces in videos. In another example of their method, the researchers attacked pixelation (also called mosaicing). To generate different levels of pixelation, they used their own implementation of a standard mosaicing technique that the researchers say is found in Photoshop and other commons programs. And finally, they attacked a tool called Privacy Preserving Photo Sharing (P3), which encrypts identifying data in JPEG photos so humans can’t see the overall image, while leaving other data components in the clear so computers can still do things with the files like compress them.

 

AI Can Recognize Your Face Even If You’re Pixelated

Pixelation has long been a familiar fig leaf to cover our visual media’s most private parts. Blurred chunks of text or obscured faces and license plates show up on the news, in redacted documents, and online. The technique is nothing fancy, but it has worked well enough, because people can’t see or read through the distortion.

 

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Eric Axelrod

President & Chief Architect at DIGR
I have helped companies bring new data driven products to market, drive efficiency out of their supply chain, execute strategic plans, and drive top line and bottom line growth by enabling every business function with actionable analytics. I can transform a business which is lacking critical insight into an agile, strategic, data driven organization.

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