Hyper-realistic face masks in a live passport-checking task

Robertson, David J. and Sanders, Jet G. and Towler, Alice and Kramer, Robin S. S. and Spowage, Josh and Byrne, Ailish and Burton, A. Mike and Jenkins, Rob (2020) Hyper-realistic face masks in a live passport-checking task. Perception. ISSN 0301-0066

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    Abstract

    Hyper-realistic face masks have been used as disguises in at least one border crossing and in numerous criminal cases. Experimental tests using these masks have shown that viewers accept them as real faces under a range of conditions. Here, we tested mask detection in a live identity verification task. Fifty-four visitors at the London Science Museum viewed a mask wearer at close range (2 m) as part of a mock passport check. They then answered a series of questions designed to assess mask detection, while the masked traveller was still in view. In the identity matching task, 8% of viewers accepted the mask as matching a real photo of someone else, and 82% accepted the match between masked person and masked photo. When asked if there was any reason to detain the traveller, only 13% of viewers mentioned a mask. A further 11% picked disguise from a list of suggested reasons. Even after reading about mask-related fraud, 10% of viewers judged that the traveller was not wearing a mask. Overall, mask detection was poor and was not predicted by unfamiliar face matching performance. We conclude that hyper-realistic face masks could go undetected during live identity checks.