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September 29, 2011

A Kashmir Hill gem in Forbes: "Hello, Stranger".

The Blowback of our new Face Culture? A gem we missed at first. Kashmir Hill writes full-time about privacy issues and the Internet. See her "Hello, Stranger", on the conveniences, unintended consequences and unsettling future realities of facial recognition software. Based on a recent Carnegie Mellon experiment, it appears in the Technology section of September's issue of Forbes, where Hill serves as a staff writer. Excerpt:

It seems that Aldous Huxley was right and George Orwell was wrong. Ubiquitous surveillance isn't being orchestrated by the governmental Big Brother of 1984 but by advances in technology designed for convenience's sake adopted eagerly by private citizens. [CMU professor] Acquisti calls it the "democratization of surveillance." And it's coming fast. Soon after the riots broke out in London at the beginning of August, a technophile band of vigilantes formed a Google Group to discuss applying the methods pioneered by Acquisti's research team to online photos and videos of rioters, in order to help identify looters for prosecution by law enforcement.

Facial recognition tools identify a person by analyzing dozens of features, such as the length of a forehead and the distance between the eyes and the nose. Google, Facebook and Apple have already made them freely available for people to tag their friends and family in photo albums. But at what point will you have the option to snap a photo of a stranger and then pull up his or her name and whatever information the Internet offers up about them?

Posted by JD Hull at September 29, 2011 11:59 PM


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