Face Masks Confuse Facial Recognition Technology

That’s a good thing.

by J.D. Tuccille

Americans can’t agree on whether face masks are a good way to reduce the threat of transmitting COVID-19. We’ve even turned mask-donning into a symbol of partisan affiliation; those who would make them compulsory everywhere face off against those who refuse them under all circumstances. But we should at least be able to agree that face coverings are a great way to defeat the surveillance state—especially now that the U.S. government has conceded that masks confuse the hell out of facial recognition technology.

“Using unmasked images, the most accurate algorithms fail to authenticate a person about 0.3% of the time,” the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a federal agency, reported last week. “Masked images raised even these top algorithms’ failure rate to about 5%, while many otherwise competent algorithms failed between 20% to 50% of the time.”

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