Article from For Liberty by Norm Leahy.

The rise in the number of people voluntarily wearing masks to combat the coronavirus has struck an unexpected blow for privacy.

According to CNET, all those masks are “successful at blocking facial recognition algorithms.”

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.

The federal government is trying to work around the problem, trolling social media sites to gather selfies of people wearing masks – often without people’s knowledge or consent:

Facial recognition companies have long used people’s pictures without consent to train their algorithms. Civil liberty advocates contend that facial recognition technology threatens privacy and free speech, warning as well that there are almost no laws preventing abuse of the surveillance tools.

Clearview AI, a controversial facial recognition company, claimed it has a First Amendment right to scrape more than 3 billion images from social networks to use for its database.

Clearview has faced substantial pushback from social media sites and at least two class-action lawsuits over its data collection practices.