Tracking tech abounds, but emerging tools offer a shield

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Facial recognition technology is being used by government agencies and private companies at unprecedented levels—so much, in fact, that the U.S. Congress has even considered passing legislation to limit its use .

The FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security already have huge biometric databases and are adding facial data, and Facebook users are uploading 300 million photos a day, said Jennifer Lynch, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, at a congressional hearing last summer.

But it’s not just the FBI and Facebook harvesting people’s facial measurements—drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) may someday use the technology, as well. According to a Congressional Research Service report (PDF), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says that within the next two decades 30,000 drones will be flying around in U.S. airways.

“Currently, drones can be outfitted with high-powered cameras, thermal imaging devices, license plate readers, and laser radar (LADAR). In the near future, law enforcement organizations might seek to outfit drones with facial recognition or soft biometric recognition, which can recognize and track individuals based on attributes such as height, age, gender, and skin color,” the report reads.

Duck the drones

If the idea of your face, body heat or some other biometric measurement giving away your identity or location bugs you, you’ll be glad to know a couple of inventions are already looking to stave off such stalking.

Isao Echizen, an associate professor at Tokyo’s National Institute of Informatics, and Seiichi Gohshi, a professor at Kogakuin University, have created a pair of glasses that can foil face recognition cameras via near infrared lights built into them, reports Slate. The lights generate electronic noise in front of facial areas that face recognition technologies try to measure. The researchers say regular sunglasses and tilting a person’s head in various angles doesn’t confuse platforms such as Google’s Picasa, for example.

As for how you can keep yourself hidden from creepy drones, Discovery reports that a New York-based artist named Adam Harvey has invented anti-surveillance clothing that might work. His set of hoodies and scarves apparently prevent infrared scanners from detecting thermal heat, although if you only wear it on the top half of your body a drone could still detect the heat from your legs.

Also in his lineup: A cell phone pouch that keeps trackers from picking up radio signals, as well as a printed shirt that prevents an airport X-ray machines from detecting the radiation emitted by a person’s heart.

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