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Magazine Photos Fool Age-verification Cameras 309

Posted by timothy
from the porn-magazine-photos-doubly-so dept.
gregor-e writes "Japan has scheduled a full-scale rollout of visual age-verification on cigarette vending machines. Unfortunately for them, a Sankei Sports news reporter has determined that this system can be fooled by holding up a magazine photo of an adult."
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Magazine Photos Fool Age-verification Cameras

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  • Impressive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mistersooreams (811324) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @02:17PM (#23992047) Homepage

    Wow, this whole idea is fantastically stupid in so many ways. In a sense I admire the gall of whichever company sold this technology, as they must have known that it couldn't possibly work. No doubt they'll roll out some ad-hoc solution to the magazine workaround (earning themselves another hearty payday as all the machines are updated). This can be repeated for each new workaround until everyone involved retires rich and their customer is too embarrassed to admit that the whole thing was obviously a waste of money.

    At least it's a tobacco company getting shafted. Can't feel too sorry for them.

    • Re:Impressive (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Valar (167606) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @02:23PM (#23992091)

      Eh, actually they don't want it to work. This way they can say "we tried to stop it from selling to kids!", but when the machine dispenses anyway they can make some extra bucks. It could easily be a way to avoid the age limits on who they can sell to.

    • Re:Impressive (Score:4, Insightful)

      by deepgrey (1246108) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @02:28PM (#23992147)
      The whole idea of cigarette vending machines is itself fantastically stupid if there is an age cutoff for the legal purchase of cigarettes. Can you just imagine what Japan would be like if marijuana were legal there?
      • by davidwr (791652) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @02:37PM (#23992247) Homepage Journal

        Their place is in an age-restricted building or room.

        Cigarette vending machines in bars, casinos, adult-entertainment establishments, and other placed where Junior can't get in without bribing the doorman, er, I mean presenting a convincing fake id, are no problem.

        If they really wanted to handle this with a machine, they would make you insert your driver's license, tell you to close either your left eye or right eye or make some other facial expression at random, then compare the faces. They would double-check with the driver's license database to make sure the face on the license matched the face on record.

        Thankfully, we aren't quite to this 1984 scenario yet, but this is coming.

        • by v1 (525388) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @03:47PM (#23992815) Homepage Journal

          According to the article, if you fail the visual check you have to insert your license. My question would be why don't they just always require the license? If you're old enough to smoke you should have a license. No idea how it works over there but I thought you could get a "non driving" driver's license here in the states to use as an ID.

          I suppose this also says something about how many people there smoke, if they have to have cigarette vending machines around every corner. Here there are no such things anymore and I don't see anyone rioting over it. One would think the only reason they have those vending machines right now is to sell to underage smokers. Which is probably why the whole issue is under attack in the first place.

          Anyone have any stats on what effect the age verification systems are having on cigarette sales from machines? I wouldn't be surprised to see sales drop 80%. For the sheer convenience and that most smokers are 1 or 2 pack a day addiction, you'd think most reasonable smokers would be buying cartains, not singles. Prices in the machines tend to be higher than by the cartain too,

          • by Deagol (323173) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @04:12PM (#23993001) Homepage
            ...reasonable smokers...

            There's the main flaw in your logic. Anyone who pays (way too much) for the privilege of habitually inhaling toxic smoke and gases (which is contrary to any living creature's survival instinct) cannot be described as "reasonable". Reason doesn't come into the equation for estimating how nicotine addicts will profit the tobacco companies.

            • by CyborgWarrior (633205) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @05:01PM (#23993337) Homepage

              Somebody once told me that it's not the days in your life that count, but the life in your days. Is your entire goal in life to live to the oldest age possible? If so, you should probably avoid driving cars or being near major roads, stay away from computers to prevent blindness and spend most of your day maintaining whatever the currently accepted level of aerobic exercise is.

              Fuck that. Life is about having some fun too. If I enjoy inhaling toxic smoke, then maybe that is the way I want to have the fun in my life, and if me choosing what I want to do for fun doesn't match your "reason" or Big Brother's "reason" then fuck you both.

              • by Sapphon (214287) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @06:31PM (#23993949) Journal

                If I enjoy inhaling toxic smoke, then maybe that is the way I want to have the fun in my life, and if me choosing what I want to do for fun doesn't match your "reason" or Big Brother's "reason" then fuck you both.


                If you have the mental faculties to be able to properly weigh the risks of the actions you choose against their benefits to you – whether that be using a computer all day or smoking – and there are no social costs inherent in your actions, then by all means, do what you want.

                But society has decided that if you are under a certain age you do not have these required decision making capabilities, and so you are restricted from making the choice. That is all.

                If a child really wanted to inhale toxic fumes its parents could make that choice by going to the cigarette machine and buying the fags, but the child itself can't. Seems reasonable to me.

                (This post restricts itself to the narrow issue of age restrictions and ignores facets such as taxes on "undesireable" goods)

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by pentlappy (619430)

                Fuck that. Life is about having some fun too. If I enjoy inhaling toxic smoke, then maybe that is the way I want to have the fun in my life, and if me choosing what I want to do for fun doesn't match your "reason" or Big Brother's "reason" then fuck you both.

                I hear this a lot. I don't want to argue with you because I don't believe in being someone else's mother. However, I assure you that the life in your days once you develop emphysema and heart disease is going to be both long AND miserable.

                Disclaimer: I work in a hospital.

              • >>...stay away from computers to prevent blindness...

                Wait, computers make you go blind? I thought the only thing that made you blind was masterb... OOOHHHHH I get it.

            • by smellotron (1039250) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @05:21PM (#23993457)

              habitually inhaling toxic smoke ... contrary to any living creature's survival instinct

              Whoops, you just made the assumption that survival instincts are based off of long-term cost/benefit ratio. On the contrary, most instincts (fight-or-flight, sexual attraction, whatnot) are based off of estimated short-term benefits. Hence why people continue to smoke...

              • it satisfies an immediate craving (if you're already addicted)
              • nicotine gives a nice little buzz
              • it is perceived to reduce stress

              Regardless of its truth and long-term effect, the "inhaling toxic smoke" argument borders on propoganda. It completely ignores one side of the argument.

              • by Deagol (323173) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @10:00PM (#23995513) Homepage
                Well, sure, if you're already hooked, then your points hold true. However, you truly have to be a follow-the-crowd dumb-ass to force your way through the initial phases of smoking in order to become tolerant of the practice and then become an addict. Unlike like other addictions (such as chocolate, whippets, or booze) which are *initially* pleasurable, a first time smoker's response of usually one of distaste.

                Ever wonder why so many movies or TV shows portray this scene:
                1. Some bad boy/girl wannabe lights up their first smoke
                2. They choke and cough, being generally shocked at how awful it is
                3. They are then ridiculed by the veteran bad boys/girls who do smoke

                This is such a common theme because -- wait for it -- the short-term instincts of animals tells them that smoke (or its source) is hazardous to the animal's health or well-being.

                I'm about as anti nanny state as most people get. The poster who offered me the friendly "fuck you" totally missed the point. I don't wish to curb such self destructive behavior -- more power to those who enjoy it, so long as it doesn't negatively affect my own health, taxes, or insurance premiums. I just want smokers to acknowledge their habit is about as rational as shitting in their own water supply or jumping from cliffs.

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by rantingkitten (938138)
                  have to be a follow-the-crowd dumb-ass to force your way through the initial phases of smoking in order to become tolerant of the practice

                  Just to be a jackass, let me point out that for a girl, it's generally somewhat painful the first time she has sex. By your logic, most girls should have sex once, see how bad it is, and then never do it again unless they're some kind of follow-the-crowd dumbasses.

                  You really should refine your argument. :P
            • by v1 (525388) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @05:22PM (#23993465) Homepage Journal

              addiction and logic do not work in tandem. addiction is the defeat of logic, therefore you cannot use logic to describe the actions of the addicted.

              Try talking to someone with an addiction. Be it alcohol, nicotine, or crack. Try reasoning with them. Odds are they will agree with you but won't change their behavior.

          • They don't always require a license because most people don't have licenses. Getting a license is a multi-month, several thousand dollar (or several hundred thousand yen, actually) ordeal. People that don't live in rural areas don't need cars and in congestion choked cities, cars are mostly luxury items.

            The article is pretty skewed. The real story is that Taspo [wikipedia.org] is starting July 1st. Taspo is a card based system that doesn't use any age verification. It's being deployed nationwide. You have to apply for a Taspo card using some form of state-issued photo identification. Maybe there's a weak link in the application procedure, but only one card is issued per person and cards that have been lost or are being abused can be disabled remotely. The article says that there will be 4000 age verification machines (in a country of 130 million), but I've never seen one. Every day, I see dozens of machines that say Taspo will be required starting July 1st. All the smokers I know have Taspo cards.

        • by billcopc (196330)

          Maybe we could just do away with law-enforced age restrictions and encourage people to act responsibly, for a change.

          If you want to smoke at age 12, fine! That's the price society has to pay for letting the tobacco industry thrive in the first place.

          Live and let die, I say.

      • by MrMr (219533) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @02:52PM (#23992387)
        Can you just imagine what Japan would be like if marijuana were legal there
        Slightly more like here?
      • by dj_tla (1048764) * <trbekolay@shEULERaw.ca minus math_god> on Sunday June 29, 2008 @02:58PM (#23992447) Homepage Journal

        Can you just imagine what Japan would be like if marijuana were legal there?

        Awesome

      • by sco08y (615665)

        They're quite useful inside pubs and other establishments where everyone inside is already known to be drinking age.

        • by mikesd81 (518581)
          That's true....if you really know their of drinking age. PLCB has been cracking down alot here on stuff like that. Bars in my area have resorted to either NOT selling tobacco or having it behind the bar.
      • Re:Impressive (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rubberchickenboy (1044950) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @03:27PM (#23992647)
        Can you just imagine what Japan would be like if marijuana were legal there?

        It would be a huge improvement. I love it here in Tokyo, but sometimes it would be nice to burn one with some Japanese friends just to chill out. So many people here are overly-stressed, anxious, and unwilling to talk about it. Sure, those things are cultural, but they're also the sorts of things pot actually helps alleviate.

        What's better? The high rate of suicide in Japan? How about the high incidence of alcohol poisoning? I fail to see how pot would make things worse.

        Unfortunately, MacArthur made sure that Japanese demonize marijuana and think of it as more dangerous than heroin or cocaine.
    • Re:Impressive (Score:5, Insightful)

      by snarkh (118018) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @02:36PM (#23992239)

      It is similar to airline security mentality -- make everything secure by installing a fancy machine.
      If it is sufficiently expensive, it must be effective.

    • by strabes (1075839)
      Sounds like Microsoft.
  • by nightglider28 (1243916) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @02:22PM (#23992085)
    It's funny when people try to create a complex system in which someone finds a tiny, simple hole. On a related note, wouldn't it be a better idea (and probably more cost effective than continual update to the security) to have some sort of ID scanner in addition to the cameras?
    • Yes, the incredible Russian space pencil come to mind.

      Though I'm hard pressed to come up with so simple a solution to facilitating age restriction on product sales other than human monitoring, or CC payment only.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by timothy (36799)

        Maybe as an parable, it's good, but the "space pen vs. the humble Russian pencil" has been widely debunked as an urban legend. Still an interesting pen!

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Pen [wikipedia.org]

        timothy

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Opportunist (166417)

        Actually, what came to my mind was some copy protection that could be circumvented with a felt pen.

        I was honestly waiting for them to outlaw felt pens since they're now a copy protection circumvention device.

    • by denzacar (181829) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @02:38PM (#23992265) Journal

      They are Japanese.
      You really think THEY didn't come up with that technical idea by now?

      TFA:

      As part of the age-verification system, most of Japan's 570,000 cigarette vending machines are being outfitted with RFID readers that check the purchaser's Taspo age-verification card. Smokers without a Taspo card can now either buy their cigarettes in person over the counter or use one of 4,000 special machines equipped with face-recognition systems (these machines do not require Taspo cards). More face-recognition machines are on the way, according to vending machine manufacturer Fujitaka, who developed the face-recognition hardware.

    • by kestasjk (933987)
      How about just not selling cigarettes from vending machines? We don't sell alcohol, guns, or porno from vending machines, so why cigarettes?

      I'll answer my own question; so kids can get them. Which makes me wonder whether this flaw was an accident..
    • by dreamchaser (49529) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @03:00PM (#23992455) Homepage Journal

      Never send a computer to do a human's work.

    • Why not just legalize tobacco for kids? If the kids are going to smoke behind the gym, then no video camera is going to stop them. Parenting should be left to parents, and not vending machines.

      p.s. Oh, and while we're at it, legalize pot for adults too...

    • by mapkinase (958129)

      They think that it is easier to stole some ID from an adult, than to buy a magazine with a portrait of Obama on the front page.

  • Cracking at its best (Score:3, Interesting)

    by paratiritis (1282164) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @02:24PM (#23992099)
    Fool the system by giving it false information. The recognition program never gets a chance to work.

    BTW it is easy to fix this if the machine asks the people to move. This will work ... for about a week, until they start creating animations of old people that can move on command for EEEs or other such netbooks.

    • by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @02:34PM (#23992223) Journal

      BTW it is easy to fix this if the machine asks the people to move

      Or better yet, add a second eye to make sure the subject has... depth!

      • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @02:40PM (#23992279) Homepage
        Goodbye old-people photos, hello old-people masks?
      • by v1 (525388) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @03:59PM (#23992887) Homepage Journal

        more likely temperature. When taking a urine sample for example, one of the things the tester does immediately is check the temperature of the sample. This helps prevent people from bringing in a medicine bottle etc with a 'clean' sample to drop in the cup. if it measures much below 95 deg, they will know you brought it in.

        Reminds me of something I read awhile back, guy tried this stunt and didn't get caught until later. "Mr Doe you'll be happy to know you passed your drug test. The doctors also felt they should inform you that you are approximately two months pregnant." oops...

        So expect thermal (I.R.) sensors. Most digital cameras (CCDs) are highly IR sensitive anyway if you remove their IR filter, so this has to be a really easy mod for them to make. Won't be terribly easy to fool. A bit like those thermometers used to measure high temperatures of materials. They usually have a red laser light dot shine on the target, but that's purely for aiming. It shows where the IR sensor in the test unit is focused on. They can do this same thing with the face presented to measure the surface temp of the image. (without needing the red laser dot since the target is being presented in a known location)

        • by drspliff (652992)

          The temperature difference can be easily solved by storing the urine sample in a bag and uh... inserting it somewhere that's the same temperature as your body for a few hours...

          • by v1 (525388)

            unless you stuff the container in some orifice so its completely contained within your body, good luck with that. Popular option, doesn't work. Stuffing it between your legs or under your armpit for example, holds it at best 85 degrees.

            You're better off with a hand warmer.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by mollymoo (202721)

          So expect thermal (I.R.) sensors. Most digital cameras (CCDs) are highly IR sensitive anyway if you remove their IR filter, so this has to be a really easy mod for them to make.

          Wrong end of the IR spectrum. People just aren't hot enough for CCDs to detect the IR, you need something not far short of red hot for a normal CCD to see it. You really do need those expensive detectors and optics if you want to tell the difference between paper at 20 Celsius and a person's skin at 33 Celsius.

      • by phorm (591458)
        In which case you bend the photo a bit?
      • I'm shallow, you insensitive clod!

    • by B3ryllium (571199)

      Force everyone to wink at the machine when buying something ... :)

  • by davidwr (791652) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @02:27PM (#23992141) Homepage Journal

    Japanese vending machines are now configured to dispense pictures of cigarettes.

  • You have to be old enough to know better. ~
  • ...should not be allowed to buy cigarettes for having such a childish idea. Oh, and the frog (?) is cute.
  • by Tumbleweed (3706) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @02:39PM (#23992267)

    "Little Brother" by Cory Doctorow. I just finished it, and it's full of stuff like ths. Great book, btw, HIGHLY recommended.

  • by TibbonZero (571809) <Tibbon@nOSpAm.gmail.com> on Sunday June 29, 2008 @02:40PM (#23992277) Homepage Journal
    So this machine can determine 17 from 18 accurately? That would be a good iPhone app!
    • by v1 (525388)

      it visually is looking for people that are clearly in their 30s+. Just like the people at the quick-e-mart, if you are borderline, you have to show your ID. These machines simply ask for your ID if they cannot verify your age as being safely old enough.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by dbIII (701233)
      It's not that hard for the machine. Smoke enough and you look 20 years older.
  • by ebbomega (410207) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @02:42PM (#23992289) Journal

    Steal a picture of the CEO, photocopy, put it back, hold up in front of your face when trying to access the secret room and let it scan you.

    God I wasted so many damn hours on that game.

    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      As long as you didn't eat at Monolith Burger you should be fine.

  • Keee-rist! There's stupid, then there's corporate stupid. There had to be a committee in this somewhere.
    • From TFA:

      As part of the age-verification system, most of Japan's 570,000 cigarette vending machines are being outfitted with RFID readers that check the purchaser's Taspo age-verification card. Smokers without a Taspo card can now either buy their cigarettes in person over the counter or use one of 4,000 special machines equipped with face-recognition systems (these machines do not require Taspo cards). More face-recognition machines are on the way, according to vending machine manufacturer Fujitaka, who developed the face-recognition hardware.

      They have over half a million cigarette vending machines.
      They equip 4000 with a face recognition thingie.

      Sounds more like a field test to me.
      Expect the tech and the math coming out of this to be used in the next generation of face recognition systems.
      And what better way to test it than to use thousands of teenage addicts - with lots of spare time and very little care for rules and "conventional way of thinking".

      And such valuable input they give...

      When the reporter went to check out the new age-verifying machines after they were introduced in the Osaka area in June, he soon discovered that the machines equipped with face-recognition cameras would let him buy cigarettes when he held up a 15-centimeter (6-in) wide magazine photo of a man who looked to be in his 50s.

      The reporter also went to Kobe, where different face recognition hardware is being used. There, he bought cigarettes using an 8-centimeter (3-in) wide magazine photo of a female celebrity in her 30s. He also reportedly tried to use a 3-centimeter (1-in) wide photo, but the machines rejected it

      So... Once the second generation of face recognition

  • Why not ban them? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Why not just ban cigarette vending machines like we did here in Canada? It's much simpler than trying to invent silly age verification schemes that any tech-savvy kid can foil.

  • ... you have to put a debit card into the machine for age verification. (of course you can pay with it too)
    Why didn't the Japanese use this simple idea? It may not be perfect, but far more effective than their "solution".

    • by Erikderzweite (1146485) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @03:53PM (#23992849)
      They did. Read this thread more accurate. A possible solution would be to place digital photo on RFID chip and let face-recognition software compare both faces. But if a kid wants to buy cigarettes, it will buy it. By taking his father's RFID and printing his photo, for example. The cigarette machines are the real problem. Disassemble them, make only a few authorized sellers sell cigarettes anyway and make sure those few do have strict age controls.
      Problem But tobacco companies' lobby will do anything to prevent it. So will do nicotine-addicted to get another cigarette.
    • by jonbryce (703250)

      You can buy pre-pay debit and credit cards in a lot of places.

  • by LM741N (258038) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @03:21PM (#23992605)

    Wait, a McCain picture might give error messages indicating you are TOO old to buy cigarettes.

  • by Feanturi (99866) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @03:25PM (#23992639)

    So I don't know why any trust is given to a machine to guess someone's age based on the appearance of their face. A lot of retailers I've seen have a sign posted at the till that says they will ask for ID if you look under 35. 35! This enormous margin of error is due to the fact that you really can't tell if someone is over or under 18 without some seriously obvious clue. I was 30 before people stopped guessing my age to be 20. My neice was able to get service in a bar once at age 14, and it could easily be seen why.

  • The machine asks the customer to hold up a newspaper with the publication date clearly visible. Anyone can find a picture of an old person but an old person with today's newspaper? Far less likely.

    I await my royalty check.

  • by mrpull (112590) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @03:33PM (#23992713)
    This story immediately reminded me of the 12 year old me guessing my way through the quiz before playing Leisure Suit Larry.

    Who the hell is Spiro Agnew? LSL taught me.

    Also, why didn't I find out Alt-X would skip that quiz until nearly 20 years later?

    mr.
  • How can it guard against a kid paying some adult a buck or two to get it for them?

    It cant.

  • The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is considering vending machines for wine.

    Users will have to register for the ability to use the machine, then put their ID / hand / arm into the machine each time, plus will be remotely monitored during the process.

    Check out the pic of it - comical!

    http://www.philly.com/philly/hp/news_update/20080615_Convenience__LCB-style_.html [philly.com]

    Ron

    • From TFA:

      Purchasing histories could be monitored to weed out potential problem drinkers.

      HA HA HA GO TO HELL.

  • Easy Fix! (Score:5, Funny)

    by MWoody (222806) on Sunday June 29, 2008 @07:32PM (#23994325)

    The solution is obvious: make it illegal to sell magazines with pictures of adults to minors.

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