Juggalo makeup, cops don’t know how it works

Juggalo makeup has the power to evade law enforcement facial recognition software.

Violent J. of Insane Clown Posse attends Juggalo March On Washington    on September 16, 2017 in Washington, DC.  CREDIT: John Lamparski/WireImage
Violent J. of Insane Clown Posse attends Juggalo March On Washington on September 16, 2017 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: John Lamparski/WireImage

Maybe Insane Clown Posse isn’t your thing, but if you’re headed to a protest any time soon, you might want to consider that familiar black and white makeup.

Two years ago, a Georgetown Law report found that half of all American adults are recorded in police facial recognition databases. The databases are, according to the report, made up of “overwhelmingly…non-criminal entities” and are built on state driver’s licenses, passports, and visa applications, giving the government the ability to track more than 117 million adults using unregulated software.

In 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told The Guardian that police in Maryland were using the software to identify protesters from photos and that the database is essentially racist, as it relies on mugshots — disproportionately taken of people of color — that remain in the system, even if the people in the photos weren’t charged.

A study from last year found that increasingly intelligent software is even learning how to identify protesters who wear hats and use scarves to cover their faces. The software identifies key parts of a face and makes estimates so the software can recreate a covered face.

Two months ago, the ACLU of Northern California also revealed Amazon was effectively giving away facial recognition software to law enforcement, sparking concern among civil rights groups and Amazon employees.


“We demand that Amazon stop powering a government surveillance infrastructure that poses a grave threat to customers and communities across the country,” a group of civil rights organizations wrote in a letter released in May.

A number of Amazon employees echoed the coalition’s concerns, writing in their own letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, “We already know that in the midst of historic militarization of police, renewed targeting of Black activists, and the growth of a federal deportation force currently engaged in human rights abuses — this will be another powerful tool for the surveillance state, and ultimately serve to harm the most marginalized.”

Here’s where the Juggalos come in.

Basically, as the Outline wrote Monday, a computer science blogger known on Twitter as @tahkion, made a breakthrough earlier this week when he realized that Juggalo makeup makes it essentially impossible for facial recognition software to figure out who a person is.

The power is mostly in the fact that Juggalo makeup usually includes putting black makeup below the mouth but not all the way to the chin, which messes with recognition software trying to find a person’s jaw.


Of course, one imagines facial recognition software might just start recognizing a face in consistent Juggalo makeup, but, as @tahkion noted, many Juggalos make small changes to the style and Juggalos only wear their makeup for special occasions.

As The Outline noted, Juggalo makeup won’t trick, say, Apple’s Face ID, which relies on depth perception rather than visual light, but for law enforcement software that works from, as @tahkion explained it, “contrast levels on normal facial landmarks,” Juggalo makeup will do the trick.

So, yes. Maybe ICP isn’t your thing, but if you’re planning to take to the streets and protest, and you’re worried about police crackdowns on protected demonstrations… it might be time to learn a little about the Juggalos.