Put on Your Sunglasses! Facial Recognition Is Going Social

Anthony Miyazaki. Sunglasses.

Put on Your Sunglasses! Facial Recognition Is Going Social

Your offline life just facilitated your online privacy invasion.

You’re at the grocery store on a crowded day and you accidentally bump your cart into another patron.  You apologize profusely and sincerely, but the other person merely glares at you and then snaps your picture with a smart phone.  You shake it off and continue your day, maneuvering your cart a bit more cautiously.

What you don’t know, however, is that your newfound adversary has used online facial recognition search to uncover a slew of photographs of you online.  These pictures link you to various social networking sites (even those such as dating sites where you’re encouraged to use a pseudonym), online and offline social and community groups (from the photography club to your volunteer support group), and official pictures from your work or school.  Then your new cybersleuth acquaintance starts a barrage of online attacks on your character which, perhaps, are more annoyance than anything else, but it could be much worse, such as your attacker showing up at your next social function.  And all this from a shopping cart bump!

Could this be for real?  Absolutely.  It’s the new world of online privacy invasion that has migrated to the offline world thanks to the converging worlds of facial recognition and online social search.  Google recently filed for a patent on “Facial Recognition with Social Network Aiding” which uses facial recognition software to scan the internet, find potential matches, and link those matches to other identifying information.  If you’ve used any facial recognition software (e.g., in your photo management software) and any picture search websites (e.g.,tineye.com), you can imagine that the power of their combination is substantial, particularly if you add the social search component, which means that pictures on social networking sites could be fair game.

How do you protect yourself from this powerful new online device?  Unless you’re one of the very few who have no recognizable photos online, there may not be much you can do regarding the online search.  Removing your online presence is tough.  Perhaps as consumer discontent becomes more intense, government entities such as the U.S. Federal Trade Commission will step up and offer some protection.

As for protecting yourself offline, maybe on your next trip to the grocery store you can opt for the sunglasses and wig celebrity look.

Privacy is sensible.

Be sensible.
Anthony Miyazaki

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