“Masks Breaking Facial Recognition”, Leaked US Documents Show

NEW YORK: A leaked document, cited in a recently surfaced report, shows that Masks are breaking facial recognition technology of Law Enforcement Agencies.

The document, revealed among “BlueLeaks trove of law enforcement documents”, examines potential impacts that widespread use of protective masks could have on security operations that incorporate face recognition systems — such as video cameras, image processing hardware and software, and image recognition algorithms — to monitor public spaces during the ongoing Covid-19 public health emergency and in the months after the pandemic subsides.

Interestingly, the report surfaced five months after Chinese firms in February this year upgraded the technology to identify people wearing masks in the wake of the Covid-19.

Using AI, the Chinese technology is able to learn a person’s identify from just their eyes and upper nose region of their face, instead of relying on having to see a person’s mouth.

The BlueLeaks trove of law enforcement documents quotes a note by Homeland Security intelligence dated May 22, in which it expressed its concern over widespread use of masks in the wake of rising Covid-19 cases, and at the same time prerogatives of local and federal police who increasingly rely on artificial intelligence tools.

Another event cited in the leaked document was protests over killing of George Floyd, in which “violent adversaries” of U.S. law enforcement evading facial recognition by cynically exploiting the current public health guidelines about mask usage.

“We assess violent extremists and other criminals who have historically maintained an interest in avoiding face recognition are likely to opportunistically seize upon public safety measures recommending the wearing of face masks to hinder the effectiveness of face recognition systems in public spaces by security partners,” reads the leaked document quoting a notice by Minnesota Fusion Center.

The notice conceded that “while we have no specific information that violent extremists or other criminals in the United States are using protective face coverings to conduct attacks, some of these entities have previously expressed interest in avoiding face recognition and promulgated simple instructions to conceal one’s identity, both prior to and during the current Covid-19 pandemic.”

This claim is supported by a single reference to a member of an unnamed “white supremacist extremist online forum” who suggested attacks on critical infrastructure sites “while wearing a breathing mask to hide a perpetrators [sic] identity.” The only other evidence given is internet chatter from before the pandemic.

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