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Face Masks are Thwarting Even the Best Facial Recognition Algorithms, Study Finds


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A young woman wearing a face mask.

A study by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology found that face masks thwart even the most advanced facial recognition algorithms.

Credit: NIST

It turns out face masks aren't just effective at preventing the spread of airborne diseases like COVID-19 -- they're also successful at blocking facial recognition algorithms, researchers say.

In a report published Monday, the US National Institute of Standards and Technology found that face masks were thwarting even the most advanced facial recognition algorithms. Error rates varied from 5% to 50%, depending on an algorithm's capabilities. 

Those results are troubling for the facial recognition industry, which has been scrambling to develop algorithms that can identify people through their eyes and nose alone as people turn to face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Face masks are essential tools to limit the disease's spread, and governments across the US are requiring people to wear coverings. The masks have caused trouble for facial recognition software, prompting tech companies to adapt. Apple, for instance, has pushed an update so Face ID can work even when people are wearing covers

 

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