Using IR LEDs To Hide In Plain Sight

Getting by without falling under the gaze of surveillance cameras doesn’t seem possible nowadays – from malls to street corners, it’s getting more common for organizations to use surveillance cameras to keep patrons in check. While the freedom of assembly is considered a basic human right in documents such as the US Condition and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is not a right that is respected everywhere in the world. Often times, governments enforcing order will identify individuals using image recognition programs, preventing them from assembling or demonstrating against their government.

Freedom Shield built by engineer [Nick Bild] is an attempt at breaking away from the status quo and giving people a choice on whether they want to be seen or not. The spectrum of radiation visible to humans maxes out around 740nm, allowing the IR waves to remain undetected by normal observers.

The project uses 940nm infrared (IR) LEDs embedded in clothes to overwhelm photo diodes in IR-sensitive cameras used for surveillance. Since the wavelength of the lights are not visible to humans, they don’t obstruct normal behavior, making it an ideal way to hide in plain sight. Of course, using SMD LEDs rather than the larger sizes would also help with making the lights even less visible to the naked eye.

The result doesn’t perfectly obscure your face from cameras, but for a proof-of-concept it’s certainly a example of how to avoid being tracked.

48 thoughts on “Using IR LEDs To Hide In Plain Sight

  1. Well, I have to say something.

    As much as this is true in theory, think about it just a bit more.

    Given:
    (Other) people are walking around without this system and are showing their faces.
    YOU walking around with this huge array of IR LEDs blasting out IR light to obscure your picture from anyone looking at you through a camera, you are kind of painting a big target on yourself all the same.

    So as much as this may work to stop you being identified from recordings, remember you can be seen a lot easier in a crowd if “they” want to find you. All “they” need to do is look for someone with a hat emitting IR light.

    Kind of defeats the purpose of it in my opinion.

    1. IR won’t interfere with human sight, if a security sees someone blinding camera with IR light, they will have someone follow the person and watch closely. It would make things harder if the person with IR light had illegal intent like shoplifting or such.

      Person who simply didn’t want to be photographed shouldn’t need to worry about security following the person.

          1. The cones in human eye is sensitive to three overlapping regions:
            https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/04/Cone-fundamentals-with-srgb-spectrum.svg/640px-Cone-fundamentals-with-srgb-spectrum.svg.png

            That is emulated by placing three filters (Bayer-filter: BGGR/RGBG/GRGB/RGGB) which attenuate strongly over the exact same type of image sensing element. Nature, does not have any material with an almost vertical rolloff. There is no material with a steep rolloff that is 100% transparent to red (~625nm to ~740nm) and 100% opaque to the near infrared (~750nm to ~1400nm). Yes digital cameras do have have IR filters and they are good, but they are not perfect. Digital cameras can see what the human eye can not even with an IR filter, because the red cone in our eyes is actually most sensitive to yellow than red (see image in above link).

  2. Of course this doesn’t work under daylight conditions because the diodes aren’t strong enough, and with CCTV cameras that don’t rely on IR.

    It’s the same thing as trying to fool speed cameras with a bunch of LEDs around your license plate. Yeah, no. The sunglasses you’re wearing do more to protect your privacy because the AI is dumb and easily tricked.

      1. Yes, the focal length of the lens can distort images and with a short focal length, things closer to the camera look larger. If only we had a way of storing the focal length of the lens in some sort of hidden data field in the image. We could call that….hmmmm…maybe “Exchangeable image file format”? And too bad we don’t have some sort of software that can adjust for such distortion. Maybe in 100 years, we’ll have something called “Shopphoto” that could have a menu like “Filter > Distort > Lens Correction > Grid > Remove Distortion.”

        I realize such software is way beyond our wildest dreams at this time but maybe in 100+ years, who knows.

        /sarcasm (aimed more at techxplore who probably totally misunderstood what the researcher was saying or only paid attention to part of it and not all of it.)

        It’s very easy to take a photo that was done with a 100mm lens and adjust it so that it has the same fish-eye/distortion of a 10mm lens. You just need to know “what is the focal length and sensor size?” and “was either image possibly already edited for distortion?” If the answer to the second question is “probably” or “yes”, then it wouldn’t be so easy to adjust them but you can start with an assumption that they aren’t and then automatically remove/add distortion to one to make it look like the other and then see if there’s a match. If so, then a human could always verify.

      2. It’s much easier to just use static backgrounds as if they were green screen.
        Cameras are a bit terrible when it comes to noise. You say, whatever doesn’t change, less than x threshold, count as background. Then you make the top twenty percent of the blobs that move faces. It’s not excellent but it’s pretty good. You don’t need high resolution or lots of processing power.

    1. Actually, it will work on a number of CCTV cameras that don’t rely on IR. The Red & Blue sensors will still pick up IR & UV respectively if it’s from a powerful enough source. While these are centered on Red & Blue light, they’re still sensitive to other frequencies. Get a powerful enough source, and it’ll show up. An easy demonstration is to use your cell phone camera to look at them and see if they’re on or not.

      As for daylight, that can be an issue but can be overcome with more powerful LEDs.

  3. I could see this used against the paparazzi (like a wearable badge) or red light cameras (mounted near license plate) to change the autofocus of cameras. Maybe strobe them as well.

    1. An interesting but not novel build. “Privacy” glasses with LEDs not in the human visible range have been around for years but do not seem to have caught on.

      That’s likely because the amount of light necessary to overwhelm a security camera from a distance is more than battery operated face mounted LEDs can handle.

      At night my cameras can clearly identify my face inside my vehicle, with my headlights on, and with no cabin lights lit. The technology is so incredible now that it’s past scary.

    2. Paparazzi will be using high quality SLR cameras, those will have IR filters built in. IR dazzling of CCDs and CMOS sensors only works against cheap cameras, whether CCTV cameras are the cheap type will vary by brand.

  4. Security by “overwhelming” a camera that could have an IR shield on it isn’t remarkable. Projecting distorting features on your face so that it can’t be recognized might be a lot more fun…

    “What’s he look like…”

    “Dunno…looks like one o’ dem Deep Dream pictures what Google makes…”

  5. In my experience most CCTV cameras only use one camera for both day and night recording and just have their own Infrared illumination for night vision. I can’t imagine governments have many state sponsored surveillance cameras installed out in the wild, instead they rely on scraping images from cameras installed by businesses and private individuals (which as we are all aware are notoriously easy to access). I don’t think the point of the project is to allow you to conduct nefarious activity unidentified but rather to take back some of the limited privacy one has.

    1. yes but these cameras (mostly)always, have an IR filter that slides over the lens in daylgiht. even the cheapest cameras i have bought from china come with these solenoid activated filters. Im by no means a guru on the subject but I have purchased an ungodly amount of cheap cameras over the years, and usually take them apart to do basic things like waterproof them properly.

  6. They might not be able to tell who you are but they will sure know where you are. Lit up like a Christmas tree. Unless everyone is doing it you’re going to stick out like a sore thumb. It would be interesting to see if someone would try this on a show like hunted.

  7. This would obscure images on some camera but only the lowest quality ones. By default all CCD or CMOS based digital camera sensors will pick up near IR, but in anything but the cheapest cameras there is an IR filter material layer placed between the lens and the sensor. A camera on a cheap phone or mp3 player will lack an IR filter, but those on high end smartphones and pretty much any digital camera will have a filter added. So the higher spec CCTV camera won’t be dazled by IR, the cheaper low res ones which might come pre-fitted as an element of a larger item will be dazzled.

  8. William Gibson, in one of his novels, described a passive system that used a hoodie covered in “face parts”. I believe it was reversible to “normal looking”, when defeating facial recognition not required.

  9. This is actually quite funny; the project should be re-badgered as;
    The Light That Gets You Noticed

    Sometimes it is worth sitting down and analyzing your actions out to the fifth or sixth level of effect…
    All those high order products of one’s actions can be rather annoying.

  10. Its an idea that’s been explored before to different levels of success, I have thought a few times of using less lights but shine them through a leaky light guide like fishing line hung in a few loops in front of the face, not enough to blind the camera but maybe defeat facial recognition.
    But now with the current Covid19 situation all that is needed is a cheap surgical mask to defeat facial recognition, which has me wondering, if the western media and governments are to be believed that they are not effective then why did China just ruin the effectiveness of their massive surveillance system by mandating that everybody must wear masks when out in public?

    1. You wearing a mask isn’t effective against you catching the disease (other than it may cut down on you touching your face after getting the virus on your hands.) They ARE effective in helping a sick person not to cough/sneeze/etc onto a surface or their hands and thus passing it on to someone else.

      Doctor’s in an operating room wear masks so if the doctor happens to be sick, he doesn’t infect the patient. He does NOT wear it so that the patient won’t infect him (you need a better seal around the mask to prevent that as particles can easily go around the edges when breathing in. But when sneezing, etc, the mucus goes straight out and hits the mask.)

      1. You completely missed the point. He was referring to masks foiling facial recognition, not the use of face masks in correlation to germ spreading prevention

        1. No, you missed it. nic0mac was remarking on how masks (such as healthcare workers wear during surgery, etc) can foil a facial-recognition system. Then he was asking why would China ruin their facial-recognition/surveillance system if surgical masks were NOT effective at helping to stop the spread of viruses.

          I.e. he was basically asking if the following really makes sense:

          Some years ago: “Hey, we need to know who everyone is and what they’re doing. Let’s put up cameras everywhere and run facial-recognition.”

          Six months ago: “Hey, we have this virus going around. Let’s ask everyone wear face-masks to supposedly fight it. Oh, they prevent our surveillance system from working AND they don’t do any good against the virus? Ok, let’s MAKE them wear them, then.”

          Of course it does not make sense. It would only make sense for China to have people wear masks if they DO work. I was simply correcting a common misconception as to who they protect.

  11. For the exact same reason the only practical change that would occur when the US government increased the “Terrorist Threat Level” was that local police were encouraged to increase the number of officers on the streets to between 125% and 180% normal levels and to put them all under a “High Visibility Order. ”

    A HVO just means try to operate in high traffic areas not hiding in some speed trap somewhere, or park your cruiser out by a busy street when grabbing a bite to eat.

    So as usual if you wanna be safe go to the nearest Dunkin Donuts.

  12. If you don’t want to get noticed by security just dress a bit like a security guard and move the same way they do, hidden in plain sight. Doing anything that gets you attention is never going to work reliably.

  13. I install CCTV Systems for a living. This would only work on cheap consumer Cameras. The high end Cameras from Hikvision, Digital Watchdog and Dahua can cope with it due to the low Mega Pixel range and high end IR Filtering. If you were to do that with one of those it wouldn’t really do anything and if a dark room or at night would be like holding a flashlight up to your face. I imagine Red or UV light would work better but you would get the same effect if you were to wear Sunglasses. Kinda like the Movie Baby Driver where they do the bank heist with glasses with Red LEDs all over the lens.

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