Possible defenses against the attack vector of facial recognition via unwanted photographs.


The advance of facial recognition technology has promoted unwarranted photographs from being a nuisance to being a potentially substantial threat, for recent examples see the cases of Clearwater AI and PimEyes. Although there are many angles to this issue, right now my interest is in technical offlince solutions for avoiding having one's picture taken without consent.

What I found

It seems like the best defenses rely on infrared light.

  1. This answer, proposes the use of LEDs to hide your face from cameras via overexposure, although there are some drawbacks like the need for a constant power source.
  2. A vendor of IR-reflecting glasses promises blocking "95% of the near infrared radiation spectrum". They also sell a frame that produces sort of a halo effect, covering much more than just the eyes. The main drawback here is that those glasses are not super cheap (84$ to 164$), and although privacy always comes at some cost, this could be too high for many people.
  3. According to this answer, certain types of welding glasses should block the relevant spectrum. However, I don't know to what degree they block it and if this would be enough to hide your eyes from cameras.

There are other methods as well, like obscuring your face with a scarf, balaclava, or even the more refined URME mask, but all of these look suspicious to some degree (even though the URME mask is supposed to look innocuous apart from the missing facial reactions).


What is the best way to avoid having an identifiable picture taken, with the restraint that it should be a) accessible and b) relatively inconspicuous?


Since several comments mentioned some kind of masking: Simply obscuring your face (by wearing a mask, scarf or even make up) no longer seems like a viable option, since Chinese media already report facial recognition technology that works even for obscured faces

  • A very hard problem, i think the best real world solution is wearing a mask its a social problem maybe if you wear a ski mask every day it becomes normal and therefor less conspicuous to the people in your area right? They just know you as the 'mask guy,' meanwhile you have successfully defeated any facial recognition in the area :)
    – Reed Jones
    Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 16:52
  • Nowadays there are at least 2 compelling reasons why to follow the advice of the WHO (who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/…): The argumentation given by the WHO and the problem that @nonthevisor describes :) Plus, if you wear sunglasses as well, I guess that contemporary face recognition will fail.
    – lab9
    Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 17:08
  • @ReedJones You can now simply be identified by your mask. No need for facial recognition
    – nobody
    Commented Jul 11, 2020 at 17:30
  • Perhaps future fashion will make things like this less conspicuous. theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/07/makeup/374929 Commented Jul 12, 2020 at 17:06
  • 1
    Your question seems to focus on the eyes, but you then end up saying that that wouldn't work anyway. I would edit your question to make this a cohesive question encompassing all factors you want considered and not an evolving understanding.
    – schroeder
    Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 19:48

1 Answer 1


This question is not really a true question and
is more of an oxymoron.

This question is not really a true question and that may be why possible solutions on this are actively sought for, but that the 'missing something' aspect stays.

The only solution to this question that seems to work correctly and which is very simple, is (and maybe out of range): There is no need to protect against unwanted photographs at all in 99% of the time as most people don't even care who's on it. A human-social bordering question just can't be fixed with technology, no matter how hard you can justify your brain into thinking that that would be the option. Even if it seems to work as intended, it doesn't. period. Why? because human-social bordering problems are very complex, not fixed, not defined and not fixable with technology whatsoever, and that likely will not change for decades to come.

Plus, if you behave normal then why would people even consider to take out their phone right away?

  • 1
    It's not bad at all to have publicity in some industries, but this question was to protect against unwanted photographs not about wanted photographs. Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 20:55
  • 1
    if by "oxymoron" you mean "contradiction in terms", I am not clear on what you are saying. what elements of this question are contradicting? Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 8:55

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