Lasers Used By Protestors to Disrupt Government Facial Recognition Cameras

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As tensions ran high in Hong Kong’s anti-government demonstrations, the Chinese government began use of biometric and facial recognition surveillance to identify protesters. Angered by the intrusive nature of this practice, protesters used hand-held laser pointers to deter police officers, scramble facial recognition cameras, and prevent people from taking photos amid political turmoil.

The Guardian, August 8, 2019

As The Guardian reported protestors in Hong Kong staged a “laser show” in opposition to the arrest of a student union leader who bought a bag of laser pointers for possessing “an offensive weapon”.

With the increase in use cases of Facial Recognition Software, and concerns for privacy, the Hong Kong protestor’s defense against prying cameras by using a relatively low tech tool, lasers which emit a very narrow beam of light. 

More broadly, the implications of this “defensive strategy” to unwanted facial recognition software use speaks to the increasing importance protecting privacy and adopting defensive measures against unwanted detection of biometric data. Based on the Chinese government’s characterization of laser pointers as an “offensive weapon”, it is clear the laser beams successfully disrupt facial recognition. The question remains what technologies, products, and services can emerge to protect against unwanted biometric detection. 

Howard Prager, Chairman of ITBiometrics, Inc., a company that specializes in biometric integration and sells a biometric cold wallet says protecting a person’s biometric data is paramount because while passwords can be changed, a person’s fingerprint, face or voice, is permanent and if that data is compromised, retrieving and protecting its integrity is significantly more difficult and complicated. 

The Hong Kong protestors defense of biometric detection against the prying eyes and computers of the Chinese government illustrates the ease which biometric data can be recorded, and at least one method of prevention of unwanted detection for facial recognition software. Will there be others? 


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