Posting in Government
Carnegie-Mellon University researchers warn that we all may be recognizable on the street by anyone with a smartphone and Internet connection. Is this a good thing?
Is anonymity dead? Is this a good thing?
Researchers at Carnegie-Mellon University warn that it is possible to identify strangers and gain their personal information — perhaps even their social security numbers — by using face recognition software and social media profiles.
The study's results, to be presented today at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, suggest that the time is near when people on the street will be identifiable with common consumer technologies such as smartphones and the Internet.
As Carnegie Mellon University's Alessandro Acquisti put it:
"A person's face is the veritable link between her offline and online identities. When we share tagged photos of ourselves online, it becomes possible for others to link our face to our names in situations where we would normally expect anonymity."
Acquisti said his research team combined three technologies — an off-the-shelf face recognizer, cloud computing and publicly available information from social network sites — to identify individuals online and offline in the physical world.
There's been an app for that around for more than a year -- Swedish company The Astonishing Tribe released a smartphone app called Recognizr that matches faces with social media details. Fortunately, TAT says, Recognizr facial recognition only works when both users have personally subscribed to the service.
Acquisti, however, worries that future apps from vendors will not have such an opt-in option. The results of his team's experiments foreshadow a future when we all may be recognizable on the street — not just by friends or government agencies using sophisticated devices, but by anyone with a smartphone and Internet connection.
The team ran three experiments and developed one mobile phone application. In one experiment, Acquisti's team identified individuals on a popular online dating site where members protect their privacy through pseudonyms. In a second experiment, they identified students walking on campus — based on their profile photos on Facebook. In a third experiment, the research team predicted personal interests and, in some cases, even the Social Security numbers of the students, beginning with only a photo of their faces.
Carnegie Mellon researchers also built a smartphone application to demonstrate the ability of making the same sensitive inferences in real-time. In an example of "augmented reality," the application uses offline and online data to overlay personal and private information over the target's face on the device's screen.
Cloud computing will continue to improve performance times at cheaper prices, and online people-tagging and face recognition software will continue to provide more means of identification.
Facial recognition systems are already seeing adoption within law enforcement and anti-terrorism circles. Are there business applications? Interactions at conferences may be one potential application. Hospitals represent another area, as medical and emergency professionals may be able to identify incoming patients. But employing facial recognition systems to identify customers who walk into a store may be too creepy.
Aug 3, 2011
Need new "friends?" Snap a shot of the stranger avoiding you at the market. Let facial recognition, Facebook tagging, and searches map your target, learn his or her interests, lifestyle, hobbies and social circles. *Poof* Transform your warthog self into their "ideal" someone, or very close. They won't know how you infiltrated their realm and you can be Mister/Miss/Undecided Wonderful until the restraining order is served. There's a great app for bars/lounges/clubs/whatever the imbibing establishment are called, which compiles demographics on the photographed patrons so one won't suffer the indignity of drinking with old homely people. Too bad there's not a hygiene rating; hate slumming with unwashed masses. If lonely doesn't apply, but psychopath does, it's your birthday every day. The possibilities are endless. Have a list of ideas, but don't want to encourage anyone. Back when I wore a "uniform" shirt with my first name on a chest patch (Not required for work, just wanted to embrace my inner blue-collar.),strange men would greet me by name and act as if we were long-lost brethren. Being dimwitted, it took me a few dozen encounters to figure out my newfound popularity. Very creepy. Nothing compared to what can/will happen soon. This morning's news featured the proliferation of up-skirt photo-bug-pervs across the US. One unctuous fellow had a shoe camera; just slid his foot towards unsuspecting shoppers. At least there's no booty recognition programs, yet. I'm removing my name badges from all my bloomers just in case. I will deny ownership of the junk in that trunk. This is only the beginning of the extinction of privacy and solitary moments. Don't scratch that itch.
Any thoughtful views of the future should have predicted this as we are now more accountable for our actions in this modern world. The UK started on the cutting edge of this years ago and the USA has stepped up efforts to incorporate this into our daily lives. Personally, I don't like it much as I am older and developed a justified distrust of authority and the inherent abuses early on. Those who will live long after me should get used to it as there is not much one can do if one doesn't like it. I can see agents interviewing you for taking a different bus than normal and you having to justify the why in an extreme example of what could be in store in the future. I can see those same agents insisting you take a certain bus simply because it would ease congestion, never mind your personal convenience. Unpopular views and their proponents would receive the lion's share of attention from these policies and devices in the name of 'national security' or 'the safety of our citizens'.