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Apparently the best way to dodge facial recognition technology is to become a Juggalo

Photo: Tasos Katopodis (Getty Images)

We are being watched. Everyone from Ticketmaster to Spanish comedy club owners are mapping the contours of your mug using facial recognition technology. Meanwhile, law enforcement and the U.S. government are cataloging your angelic smile, as are tech juggernauts like Amazon and Facebook. For the average American, it’s become an everyday part of life, especially with new iPhones requiring you to stare straight into your device to gain access to the damn thing. Aside from retreating into the bowels of nature, there is no escaping it.

Well, there wasn’t. Now, thanks to one intrepid Twitter user, a solution to having your face scanned and filed away by some faceless suit is just a Hot Topic trip away. Juggalo makeup, which is not the same as clown makeup thank you very much, has been identified as the best means to avoid being recognized by Big Brother.


Twitter’s @tahkion made the discovery, elaborating in a series of tweets why the followers of Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, in particular, are safer than those in corpse paint or CV Dazzle, another kind of face detection camouflage. According to The Outline, who initially reported the discovery, it can be summarized thusly:

“[F]acial recognition works by pinpointing the areas of contrast on a human face—for instance, where a nose is located, or where the chin becomes the neck. As it happens, juggalo makeup often involves applying black paint below the mouth, but above the chin. That makes facial recognition vulnerable to misidentifying the placement of the jaw.”

Or, as @tahkion puts it:


If you’re unaware of just how much facial recognition has infiltrated law enforcement, The Outline breaks it down:

Facial recognition is already in broad use by law enforcement. This past week, the FBI used facial recognition to identify the man who opened fire on the offices of Maryland newspaper Capital Gazette, killing five people. But use of facial recognition is largely unregulated. Amazon’s “Rekognition” tool has been piloted in the Orlando, FL and Washington County, OR police departments, and the company is looking to expand its use. Private companies like Moscow-based NtechLab have developed “ethnicity recognition” tools with the intention for it to be used by law enforcement to, in essence, automate racial profiling. This isn’t just happening in the U.S.: in China, facial recognition is used to monitor citizen activity as a part of its extensive “social credit” system, which affects people’s ability to get loans and use certain public services, like bike rentals.


As ThinkProgress adds, facial recognition is often used at marches and protests to profile attendees; software is even learning how to identify those “who wear hats and use scarves to cover their faces.” Looks like those Juggalos who marched on Washington last year were paragons of organized resistance in more ways than one. 

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About the author

Randall Colburn

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.