Facial recognition software that blurs your sensitive data when you're not looking at it

Filed Under: Data loss, Privacy

Well, here's a whole different kind of "endpoint security" from the usual.

A product called "PrivateEye" uses your computer's webcam to identity your face. While you're sitting in front of your PC and looking at the screen, PrivateEye's facial recognition software knows not to do anything - but as soon as you look away, the contents of your screen become an unintelligible blur.

Peeking at someone else's laptop

It's not going to stop malware and remote hackers stealing data from your computer's hard drive, but it could - claim developers Oculis Labs - prevent "shoulder-surfers" who try to spy what's on your screen when you're reading confidential information. That's because if the PrivateEye software spies an extra face alongside yours it can immediately hide your screen's contents.

Sounds like a fun tool to play with! But unfortunately I don't have a copy, so I have to make do with this YouTube video instead:

Good luck to the folks at Oculis Labs who produce "PrivateEye".

It's great to see a small technology company trying something different, although I'm not sure how popular this would be in the corporate environment. Think about all the times you invite someone over to your desk to show them the groovy animation you've just done in PowerPoint, or ask the IT guy to visit to work out why Lotus Notes isn't working properly.

Has anyone out there tried PrivateEye? If so, do me a favour and try the following and tell me if it worked or not:

Balloon face

1) Draw a smiley face on a balloon and put it in front of your webcam. Were you able to fool PrivateEye?

Dog working at computer

2) Grab the dog and sit him on your chair. Any luck?

Being John Malkovich

3) Try a face mask on a stick, "Being John Malkovich"-style.

I can imagine this software being a lot of fun. Funnily enough, it reminded me a little of the RAPIL April Fool that SophosLabs produced a few years back - but I'm sure that PrivateEye isn't a joke!

Hat-tip: I found out about PrivateEye through a PC Magazine review, written by the legendary Neil Rubenking.

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7 Responses to Facial recognition software that blurs your sensitive data when you're not looking at it

  1. Rob · 1296 days ago

    Couldn't find a picture of a smiling balloon huh?

  2. kurt wismer · 1296 days ago

    the john malkovich on a stick one would probably work. having worked with facial recognition technology in the past it's been my experience that photos are generally good at fooling the system.

  3. yogi · 1296 days ago

    i'm sure frequent users of botox would have an issue with this

  4. Nick · 1296 days ago

    I'm using it now, trial version and its very good. One thing I would love to see is the ability to keep the screen blurred even if the mouse/keyboard is used. As it stands now, If i walk away from my desk the screen goes blurry. If someone sits at my desk and moves the mouse the screen goes back to normal. This may be by design, as its not intended to be a replacement for locking the desktop but how cool would that be?!?

    • Bill Anderson · 1296 days ago

      Hi Nick - I know what you mean, but PrivateEye will actually protect against the instance you mention. If left alone for more than a few seconds PrivateEye will not let someone back in by just moving the mouse. Please check out my blog post from yesterday about it:
      http://www.oculislabs.com/company/blog/privateeye...

  5. Nick · 1296 days ago

    I took a picture of me with iPhone and showed it back, un-blurred system.

  6. Clint · 1291 days ago

    I have a little Jack Bauer action figure on my desk. Brought him up to the screen and it blurred, sounded the alarm, and put his picture up in the corner. I felt like CTU. And like I was about to killed by Jack Bauer.

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.