The Null Device

Faces from the crowd

Researchers at Columbia University have developed a new system for protecting the privacy of people who appear in photographs. Rather than blurring or erasing faces, the new software replaces facial features with others from a library:
The software randomly selects 33,000 photos of faces from picture-sharing sites like Flickr.com, then picks the most suitable faces for each person in shot. Only the eyes, nose and mouth are used, resulting in a composite image of the two people. "It matches subject pose, lighting conditions and image resolution," says Kumar. "The selected faces are aligned to common 3D coordinates, corrected for colour and lighting, and blended into the target image."
Aside from Street View, the system could be used to obscure the faces of military personnel or eyewitnesses to crime. It could also allow amateur photographers to improve group shots, by replacing frowning faces with better photos of the same people.

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