AVG's Invisibility Glasses promise to protect your privacy in public
AVG unveiled Invisibility Glasses, a new product from its Innovation Labs, yesterday in Barcelona.
I have to admit that I imagined a different kind of product when I read its name, thinking of a product that would make the wearer invisible or one that would automatically remove objects or people in your sight when you use the glasses.
Invisibility Glasses serve a different purpose though. They have been designed by AVG to protect your privacy when you are in public.
Depending on where you live, surveillance cameras may be a common occurrence. They monitor specific locations and many record what is happening or use facial recognition software to identify people.
But surveillance cameras are just part of the problem. All modern phones come with cameras and the rise of sites such as Facebook, Instagram or Google Plus increase the likelihood that photos that you are in end up online.
Even if you take special care not to upload photos to these services, others that you come in contact with either on the street or elsewhere may do so regularly.
Sites like Facebook use facial recognition algorithms with great success already creating connections between people, places and time in the process.
AVG's glasses are designed to protect your identity "through a mixture of technology and specialist materials". The company sheds some light on those technologies used.
The glasses use infrared light and retro-reflective materials to prevent facial recognition algorithms from identifying the person wearing them.
It is clear that these glasses are not protecting you completely. While facial recognition software may be unable to identify you directly, it is still possible that someone looking at the photo may.
To use the Facebook example again: the uploader or another person may add your name as a tag on Facebook identifying you manually on the site instead. While you'd be shown wearing glasses, you'd still end up identified on the site.
AVG notes that the technologies implemented are not 100 fail-safe either. The retro-reflective materials work only if Flash photography is used for example and the infrared light may not be effective if filters are used by cameras.
I don't think that these glasses have mass market appeal or that they will be launched as a product by AVG in the near future. It is good however that companies and researchers work on solutions to address growing privacy concerns in this area.
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