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Face Search Engine Raises Privacy Concerns

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the i-forget-the-mane-but-the-pace-is-familiar dept.

Privacy 158

holy_calamity writes "Startup Polar Rose is in the news today after announcing it will soon launch a service that uses facial recognition software, along with collaborative input, to identify and find people in photos online. But such technology has serious implications for privacy, according to two UK civil liberties groups. Will people be so keen to put their lives on Flickr once anyone from ID thieves to governments can find out their name, and who they associate with?"

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Lesson #1 (4, Insightful)

riversky (732353) | more than 6 years ago | (#17303742)

ANYTHING you do online is NOT private! PERIOD!

Re:Lesson #1 -- Don't Expect Privacy Online (3, Insightful)

ematic (217513) | more than 6 years ago | (#17303866)

I agree with the parent. Anybody that posts photos of him/herself on the net should reasonably expect that anybody will see them. This is the reason that I am a bit uncomfortable posting my bookmarks to del.icio.us.

My advice to anybody who wants their cake and eat it too: Use different handles for different applications.

That is, if you want to indulge in the MySpace/LJ/VOX blogging, then use a handle unique to that type of activity (eg. BlogUser99).
If you want to indulge in Flickr/Photobucket/Picasa photo-sharing, then use a different handle (eg. PhotoDad12).
The same goes for social bookmarking and product reviews on Amazon and the like.
And, of course you should never use your full name except for in business transactions.

By using different handles, you'll give black hats/feds/5kr1p7-k1dd13z a hard time trying to figure out who you really are.

Just my 0b00000010..

Re:Lesson #1 -- Don't Expect Privacy Online (1)

GeckoX (259575) | more than 6 years ago | (#17303932)

Been doing that for years.

But man is it hard keeping track of all my own 'identities'. What a PITA. Necessary evil though.

Re:Lesson #1 -- Don't Expect Privacy Online (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17303990)

I agree with the parent. Anybody that posts photos of him/herself on the net should reasonably expect that anybody will see them.

What if someone else took a picture of you, or say, your wife, or kids, and put it on the net without your consent? Would that be ok? It's not always about what you would do with photos of yourself, but what other people do with your image that you have no control over.

Re:Lesson #1 -- Don't Expect Privacy Online (1)

topical_surfactant (906185) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304054)

It's not always about what you would do with photos of yourself, but what other people do with your image that you have no control over.
Especially with the advent of social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, and with user-supplied content, a-la YouTube. It's tough to keep a firm grasp on your privacy these days if you're at all part of any aspect of modern culture.

Re:Lesson #1 -- Don't Expect Privacy Online (1, Interesting)

BigDogCH (760290) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304296)

So,it seems to me that we should post pictures of ourselves everwhere, with tons of incorrect names. I guess tonight i will be making several myspace sites about fake people, with my pictures.

Re:Lesson #1 -- Don't Expect Privacy Online (1)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305632)

>>>"So,it seems to me that we should post pictures of ourselves everwhere, with tons of incorrect names. I guess tonight i will be making several myspace sites about fake people, with my pictures"

This is a good counter measure, if you can automate it by grabbing images of people from Flickr etc, and create
bogus profiles (use the fakename generator [fakenamegenerator.com] ). Nothing like dirtying the database.

But if you do go and dirty the database, I have to add the oblig' "why do you hate our freedom?"

Re:Lesson #1 -- Don't Expect Privacy Online (4, Interesting)

frdmfghtr (603968) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305208)

Especially with the advent of social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, and with user-supplied content, a-la YouTube. It's tough to keep a firm grasp on your privacy these days if you're at all part of any aspect of modern culture.


Agreed. I submitted a story to /. on 11 December (still pending??) about an article in TIME magazine.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15994151/site/newsweek / [msn.com]

From that story, a good example:

But two Bank of America employees at a private function celebrating the company's merger with MBNA couldn't have anticipated what happened to them. Their over-the-top rendition of U2's "One" (with custom lyrics like "Integration has never had us feeling so good") wound up being mocked by thousands of Internet critics. (Adding injury to insult, lawyers for U2's record label threatened a lawsuit for copyright infringement.)


Cheap video technology (esp. video-capable cellphones) and social sites make it all possible.

Simply being in public can get you on these social sites, whether you actually use them (or have even HEARD of them) or not. In the end, the only way to ensure your privacy is to not become a part of society. If you venture into public, you too could end up on some social web site.

And remember--this is the PUBLIC engaging in a type of surveillance on the PUBLIC. For the tinfoil hats out there, it's not just the government's watchful eye you have to be careful around; it's that video-capable cellphone in the hands of the seemingly innocent rider sitting across from you on the train, too.

Re:Lesson #1 -- Don't Expect Privacy Online (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17305058)

What if someone else took a picture of you, or say, your wife, or kids, and put it on the net without your consent?

What if I'm walking down the street and someone looks at me? Seriously if someone takes a picture of me it's just going to be me going about my daily business, hundreds of people see me do that every day.

Re:Lesson #1 -- Don't Expect Privacy Online (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17305388)

Few people can remember where you've been on the 5th of Nov. 2003, but people take geotagged photos with timestamps. The internet has that information and search engines will make it available.

Re:Lesson #1 -- Don't Expect Privacy Online (1)

russ1337 (938915) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305748)

>>> "Few people can remember where you've been on the 5th of Nov. 2003, but people take geotagged photos with timestamps. The internet has that information and search engines will make it available."

I think i'll start wearing these. [screamerscostumes.net]

Re:Lesson #1 -- Don't Expect Privacy Online (3, Interesting)

oldwindways (934421) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304028)

My understanding was that this software makes such precautions irrelevant as it could be used to cross reference images and determine that BlogUser99, PhotoDad12, etc are in fact the same person.

Not a big deal, unless you happen to work for a conservative company and maintain an anti-government blog or some such thing.

Re:Lesson #1 -- Don't Expect Privacy Online (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17306098)

I do exactly this. I also revoke my old handles occasionally and start anew (I am on my third slashdot account). Even though I post a great deal online, my identity is virtually untraceable.

Posting anonymously so as not to encourage some smartass to try and prove me wrong.

squeezing out the marginalized (5, Insightful)

yali (209015) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304472)

In a technical (and technological) sense, you're absolutely right. Given the nature of digital information, anybody putting any information online would be well advised to act as though it is going to get back to everybody they know, perhaps through channels that don't even exist at the time you put the information online.

But the more complicated social reality is that in most people's experience, the public-private distinction has usually been one of probability and degrees, not an all-or-nothing proposition. It used to be the case (and still is, though less and less so) that you could go to certain technically public places and still have a practical/probabilistic expectation of privacy. For example, you could go to a political or cultural event for an unpopular group (a gay pride parade, for example) and have a reasonable hope that it wouldn't get back to your employer or family. You might be in a technically public space and you (hopefully) knew you were taking a risk, but the risk was small enough that it was worth it.

The problem raised by this kind of technology is that it is eliminating those kinds of physical and virtual spaces -- the spaces where you can meet and interact with others and have some practical (if not airtight) expectation of privacy. The fact is, there are very few real places you can socialize with lots of other people that have a truly complete expectation of privacy, so the probabilistic expectation is often the best you can hope for. For people with some kind of politically or culturally marginalized interest -- and let's face it, who doesn't have at least one interest that falls into that category -- it's a sad development.

The end of protest? (2, Interesting)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305654)

>For example, you could go to a political or cultural event for an unpopular group

Parent makes an interesting point. Who would risk going to any public protest for anything (war, whatever) knowing that you will probably turn up in a Google image search for doing so?

Steve

Re:squeezing out the marginalized (2, Insightful)

Alef (605149) | more than 6 years ago | (#17306108)

I couldn't have said it better myself. And this is something many people don't seem to realise. It has always been possible for a secret service, or someone else with lots of resources, to track and investigate single individuals, through public sources and some social engineering. Long before the internet or even computers existed. But it has been expensive to do so, and impractical on a larger scale.

In the future, this might very well become so cheap that it is affordable for essentially anyone. And it will be possible to track people on a truly massive scale. Who cares if there are laws against to mapping out and keeping registers on peoples political opinions, religion, sexual preferences and so on, if any such information can be extracted automatically on demand? Imagine a search engine like Google where you can enter a persons name, and get anything on that person extracted through data mining and consolidation of public sources. Far fetched? I don't know, maybe. Technologically impossible? I can see no reason why it would be.

Lesson #2 - Wear a Mask (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17304892)

I predict that society in the future will either
(a) see people wearing masks routinely in much the same way that they currently wear pants for privacy reasons, or (b) masks will be outlawed as soon as technology gets to the point where faces can replace RFID-embedded-national-ID-cards.

When masks are illegal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17305296)

masks will be outlawed as soon as technology
Done Deal [cnn.com]
PDF [uscourts.gov]

The decision in question, Church of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan v. Kerik, upheld a New York state statute prohibiting the wearing of masks or facial disguises in public, other than for masquerade or similar entertainment purposes. The Ku Klux Klan had claimed that its members have a First Amendment right to wear masks during its rallies, but the 2nd Circuit opinion disagreed.

Not even if I see that little lock icon? (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305412)

(Subject line says all)

Re:Lesson #1 (1)

sbben (983577) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305580)

A lot of people seem to miss the fact that they control almost every bit of what information of theirs shows up on the internet. If there is any exception to this rule, your problem is not with the internet or it's services, it is with some other individual.

Re:Lesson #1 (1)

mandelbr0t (1015855) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305928)

...your problem is not with the internet or it's services, it is with some other individual
Precisely. Too many people blame the Internet for the malicious actions of others. True, it's a little easier to find victims now, especially since there's a general naivity of casual Internet users. However, it's still illegal to stalk somebody. It's still illegal for a legal investigation to violate your rights to find incriminating evidence. The big question, I guess, is whether the facility of the Internet improves people's chances of getting away with a crime. It's clear that the amount of permanent data about every individual within the Internet's "earshot" is going to increase, so trying to prevent this sort of technology from being implemented is basically impossible. We need to teach people Lesson #1 posthaste so they can prevent themselves from being victimized.

mandelbr0t

"collective intelligence" (5, Funny)

TodMinuit (1026042) | more than 6 years ago | (#17303752)

Polar Rose relies on a combination of our unique face recognition algorithms and the collective intelligence of our users.

They seem to have made a fatal assumption.

Re:"collective intelligence" (1)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#17303946)

Remember, none of us is as dumb as all of us.

Re:"collective intelligence" (1)

jomama717 (779243) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304254)

"You know how dumb the average person is? Well, by definition, half of 'em are even dumber than THAT." - J.R. Bob Dobbs

more like wild guess (1)

paul42w (693767) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305614)

Faces are not unique enough to identify an individual. Also, faces change with time, glasses, shaving habits, makeup, piercings, and who knows what else. People are much better than computers at face recognition, and it is a task that trained observers will often fail at. There is just no way that a computer can manage more than a wild guess.

Privacy?? (0)

MrShaggy (683273) | more than 6 years ago | (#17303754)

Welcome to Web 2.0. Check your privacy at the door.

Governments? (2, Insightful)

bhmit1 (2270) | more than 6 years ago | (#17303758)

Who says they aren't already doing this? Unlike your credit report, you can't see everything they've been gathering on you.

Tsk tsk tsk... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17305326)

We are, sir. We most definitely are.

You don't have to put it up (2, Interesting)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 6 years ago | (#17303766)

I do some street photography and, although I don't personally publish material on the web, some of the people who hire me do. So even if you don't put your photo on Flickr because you are afraid of being identified by search engine there is nothing stopping me from putting it up there for you.

Re:You don't have to put it up (1)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#17303952)

so... please don't take it personally if I take your camera and smash it after you take a picture of me? (I mean no threat, just bringing up a point) if someone cares enough to purposefully not post themselves on the web, perhaps out of fear of a stalker, what right do you have to "publish" without consent?

Re:You don't have to put it up (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304206)

I won't take it personally but most of what I do with a camera involves a lot more peril than some guy on the street smashing my camera. Also, if I'm on the street it is probably a digital so as long at the write is finished smashing it won't do much good.


There are various laws in various places concerning what kind of permission is necessary before publishing photos depicting identifiable people. Many of them concern advertising only but some, Canada [findlaw.com] is maybe the most clear cut, cover anything that is published. Also if you read the TOS of most photo sharing sites you'll find that they require permission from everyone in the shot before it can be uploaded even if that is almost impossible to police.

But regardless of the laws, information wants to be free, or however the saying goes. I put up a photo of you withouy your cosent and by the time I get the order to take it down the facial search engines have crawled and cataloged it.

Re:You don't have to put it up (1)

Temkin (112574) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304672)

There are various laws in various places concerning what kind of permission is necessary before publishing photos depicting identifiable people.



There's the problem... Now everyone is identifiable!

Re:You don't have to put it up (1)

Daemonstar (84116) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304224)

Here's a bit of privacy/publicity guidelines I found here [publaw.com] .

The basic presumption underlining right to privacy laws is the protection of an individual from the disclosure of private facts. The general principles are that one who publicizes a matter concerning the private life of another is subject to liability for invasion of privacy if the matter publicized is of a kind that would be highly offensive to a reasonable person and is not of legitimate concern to the public. The right of publicity provides that an individual has the right to control the commercial use of their name, likeness or identity. While the right of privacy protects an individual from the disclosure of embarrassing facts, the right of publicity protects the individual from financial loss from an unauthorized commercial use of their name or likeness. As a general rule the right of privacy will only apply to a living person while the right of publicity may also apply to a deceased person.
If you have questions about publicity, call your local newspaper. They should be able to provide you with at least the basic info about publishing photographs of people. You could also ask the nearest famous person about publishing photographs; although, that may be a bit tougher to pull off. :)

Re:You don't have to put it up (1)

BigDogCH (760290) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304656)

Ah, but this if for information about the "private life of another subject". Is your face private? I don't think so. If it is, then you shouldn't show it to anyone. Maybe some of your photographers here in the U.S. can help me out, but isn't anything visible from a public area (without a zoom lens) allowable to be photographed? I mean, according to the posters here, I wouldn't be allowed to take pictures of cops because I didn't get their permission. Well, that just wouldn't work in a "free country" now would it?

If you don't want your face photographed, leave it at home.

Re:You don't have to put it up (2, Interesting)

Christoph (17845) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304780)

I have written permission to take your photo and publish it, at least in the USA, in the form of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

I am being sued in federal court for publishing a man's photo (along with his name). See:
www.cgstock.com/essays/vilana.html [cgstock.com]

He's a mortgage originator, and he forged a sales agreement, and I'm warning others about him on my website (e.g. consumer speech). He dropped an earlier claim of defamation (what I wrote about his is true), but he's raising the same objection as you -- I can't publish his photo without permission. I disagree.

Who gets to decide what I publish? For the most part, me, and it is a difficult decision. How could someone else make that decision for me better than me?

I would agree it's morally wrong (not legally wrong) to publish someone's photo (with their name) without permission WHEN you have no reason (it's not newsworthy) AND you suspect they object. Many people, myself included, have no objection, and society can't suspend the freedom of the press to avoid offending those who want to keep their faces and names off the web. Keeping names off the web runs contrary to information wanting to be free. It sounds like a giant high-school yearbook, or a giant phone book that has photos...in other words, there may be some problems, but it doesn't sound overly troublesome.

Re:You don't have to put it up (2, Interesting)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305316)

The problem I'm concerned with here is more along the lines of: I cut someone off on the highway. They speed past and take a picture of me with cameraphone. They use said software to find pictures of me on the internet, including picture of me with my girlfriend. They search with same software for the identity of girlfriend. They take out their grudge on her.
People go way overboard with road rage, so that scenerio isn't entirely paranoid. With a simple photo they get access to the who and where of all of my friends and family, by way of this software. It's a great tool for stalkers and exploitation, with little use to the average person.

Re:You don't have to put it up (1)

CGP314 (672613) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304926)

...please don't take it personally if I take your camera and smash it after you take a picture of me? (I mean no threat, just bringing up a point) if someone cares enough to purposefully not post themselves on the web, perhaps out of fear of a stalker, what right do you have to "publish" without consent?


Photographers have every right [sirimo.co.uk] to photograph you if you are in a public place. Like the grandfather poster, I also do street photography [smugmug.com] but unlike him I do make mine available. If you required that photographers got the permission of everyone in their photographs then taking photographs out doors would be impossible. While I generally try to obscure the faces [smugmug.com] of those I photograph, I don't always [smugmug.com] because it adds to the shot. If you are outdoors, expect to be seen.

Re:You don't have to put it up (1)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305472)

But as photographers, shouldn't you and the GF worry that this software makes your art, a part of a database with huge exploitaion potential? My problem isn't with being in your picture, my problem is that your picture is now also entering my face into that database. You leave fingerprints and DNA everywhere you go in public as well, how whould you feel about those being catalogued?

Re:You don't have to put it up (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304072)

Perhaps, but then you're just a face in a crowd. That's not NEARLY as convenient as a site that keeps pictures of your face and intimate details of your life all in one convenient package.

Re:You don't have to put it up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17304324)

Is street photography code for Stocker? :)

Re:You don't have to put it up (0)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305080)

So even if you don't put your photo on Flickr because you are afraid of being identified by search engine there is nothing stopping me from putting it up there for you.

I strongly suggest that anyone planning to do this check with a lawyer in their jurisdiction first. In many places, here in the UK for example, the privacy laws are a bit of a mess, and it is not necessarily an offence to take a random photograph in a public place for private use just because that photograph contains someone recognisable. However, as soon as you start publishing the photo, using it for any commercial purpose, or violate any of countless other restrictions, all kinds of privacy- and data protection-related laws start creeping up around you. Given that whether a person's private life is significantly impacted can be a criteria for assessing whether an action was illegal (see the European Convention on Human Rights, for example), if you did take a recognisable photo of them without their consent and put it on the 'net, and it did later cause them problems, you could be in all kinds of legal trouble.

Let me say this now. (0)

Kenja (541830) | more than 6 years ago | (#17303778)

All those photos where perfectly legal... in the countries in which they were taken.

Video of how it works (1)

AugustZephyr (989775) | more than 6 years ago | (#17303810)

A video on the Polar Rose website (avi format) shows the technique being used to reconstruct actor Tom Cruise's face: http://www.polarrose.com/img/tom.avi [polarrose.com]

Re:Video of how it works (2)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304540)

The fatal flaw in this process, is that it's Tom Cruise's face. Can't I have one day where I don't have to look at that guy?

This is why I worry about this process. Not because of my privacy, but because there are already too many instances of my large face on the Net. You people have enough of me to deal with already, without yet another database crunching my oily pixels and spitting them back up at you with a hyperlink attached.

pr0n (5, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#17303812)

Startup Polar Rose is in the news today after announcing it will soon launch a service that uses facial recognition software,

The only "facial" recognition software I use is Google Image Search with Safesearch turned off.

Re:pr0n (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304228)

I don't think it's faces you're looking for.

Re:pr0n (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17304768)

It's called a facial. Turn off safe search and do a google image search of it sometime. Just make sure your mom/wife/girlfriend/pastor isn't looking over your shoulder at the time.

Unless they're into that kind of thing.

you can't hide from everyone (3, Insightful)

David_Shultz (750615) | more than 6 years ago | (#17303814)

let's face it -your information is out there somewhere. Instead of being afraid of getting involved in some online community, let's think of better measures of protection against identity theft.

Re:you can't hide from everyone (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304236)

It's easy! Just take the old tinfoil hat, unfold the edges a bit more so you cover your ears, eyes and nose. Now, make some tiny slits for the previously mentioned orifices and you're golden.

Who said technology was difficult to deal with?

Re:you can't hide from everyone (2, Funny)

CantStopDancing (1036410) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304716)

and you're golden
Wouldn't you be silver? :)

Re:you can't hide from everyone (1)

aztektum (170569) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305754)

It's not identity theft it's identity fraud.

Acid face test... (0)

creimer (824291) | more than 6 years ago | (#17303824)

A face search engine should be able to identify the ghost that appear in the background of a picture (i.e., The Grudge).

What IS OK? (0, Offtopic)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 6 years ago | (#17303834)

I don't understand how an ID thief is going to use this, especially since most of the pictures are plainly labeled. "Like, here is me and Brittney at the NSync concert. It was so, like, OMG!"

My main question is this:
What is OK for governments to use to fight terrorism that won't get privacy advocacy groups in a tizzy, that will actually work and not easily circumvented? For example, don't say require FISA warrants before listening, because it is quicker to buy another disposable cell phone than it is to obtain a FISA warrant.

I'm not being a troll, but it seems like every energy resource we come up with runs afowl (pun intended) with environmentalist and every security measure runs afoul of privacy groups. Since we are not talking about energy here, ignore that part.

We obviously need some sort of security. What is OK?

Re:What IS OK? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17304126)

Absolutely nothing, but the problem is the government doesn't realize that by "fighting terrorism" they are basically doing exactly what the terrorists want. The terrorists do not need to attack because our governments have managed to put enough fear in their citizens without the need for an attack. We now have a vague color system in the US that they can fluctuate at will because of their "intelligence sources" showing "an attack is likely."

It seriously has become a lot less about fighting terrorism and a lot more about constant surveillance of everyone..."for the greater good."

Re:What IS OK? (4, Insightful)

finkployd (12902) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304258)

For example, don't say require FISA warrants before listening, because it is quicker to buy another disposable cell phone than it is to obtain a FISA warrant.

They have NEVER needed FISA warrants before listening. In the event that they need to tap in an emergency (where waiting for a FISA warrant could lose the chance at intelligence), they can just start doing so. However, they do need to apply for a warrant within 72 hours of starting the tap. How could any reasonable person have a problem with this? All they are saying is that you cannot wiretap without ever telling anyone about it.

We obviously need some sort of security. What is OK?

Yes, we do. But we cannot forget that we have a system of checks and balances. Democracy does not move as fast as a dictatorship, and a dictatorship can (in theory) move much faster to protect its citizens. If that is what we truly want as a country then let's just do it and quit pretending. This whole "we are still a democracy with governmental checks and balances but because the president declared war on an abstract concept he can do anything he wants" thing we have going now just does not make sense. The excuses are always so flimsy, it is always a claim that it is perfectly legal under written law and when that proves to be false then it becomes "oh well, none of that matter anyway because he's got unlimited wartime powers".

But you ask what we can do? Obviously we are doing some things that make a lot of sense. Better information between the intelligence agencies is a no-brainer, and I would go as far as saying going after the Taliban in Afghanistan was a good move as well (Iraq was obviously a horribly stupid blunder/distraction though).

However we do a lot of stupid things also. Hiring a lot of poorly trained rent-a-cops to play detective in the airports was probably not the best use of our resources. Insane restrictions on what we can take on airplanes do nothing for security, but make ignorant people feel safer. The whole slew of ways we try to throw billions in poorly thought out "technical" solutions like RealID, MagicLantern, facial recognition (which doesn't work any better than space lasers shooting at ICBMs), and whatever kludged algorithm generates the Mo-Fly list do nothing for security and cost both money and civil liberties.

There are many tried and true intelligence gathering and counter-terrorism techniques, but the current administration is more interested in presenting a color coded security theater for the masses complete with high tech sounding ("it involves computers so you know it must be good") projects. The paranoid thinks they are just using "terrorism" as a bogeyman to implement systems to track and control all citizens. I actually think that is a side effect of their actual motivation to dump money into their friend's and contributer's companies.

Finkployd

Re:What IS OK? (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305398)

I like your post. Well, all but one part:

They have NEVER needed FISA warrants before listening. In the event that they need to tap in an emergency (where waiting for a FISA warrant could lose the chance at intelligence), they can just start doing so. However, they do need to apply for a warrant within 72 hours of starting the tap. How could any reasonable person have a problem with this? All they are saying is that you cannot wiretap without ever telling anyone about it.

The issue I have with this is, again, the disposable phone. Habib Mohamed buys a disposable phone to call his mum, Bosama InLaden in Pakistan. The Feds freak and immediately start listening in, only to find out that Mr. Mohamed really is calling his mum and stop listening and remove Mr. Mohamed from any further surveillance. The problem is, they would not have known this if they had not listened. And they really can't go to the FISA court now to get a warrant for tapping Mr. Mohamed's calls to his Mum. It seems the only answer would be to make the Feds get a warrant on calls that produce something, but that kinda defeats the purpose as well.

(Warning, responding to this may get you modded as off-topic because to some, this has nothing to with privacy)

Re:What IS OK? (1)

zesty42 (1041348) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304318)

What is OK for governments to use to fight terrorism that won't get privacy advocacy groups in a tizzy

Hopefully, nothing. That fact that you hear about someone complaining about every move a gov makes means the system is working (how well its working is another debate). Some of these groups are annoying, some are just stupid, but they all serve as checks in one way or another. Take a look at countries that don't have these kind of groups and there are much more serious problems (treading close to Godwin's Law already).

An old quote that can't be brought up too often: "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety" Ben Franklin

Re:What IS OK? (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305192)

-->What is OK for governments to use to fight terrorism that won't get privacy advocacy groups in a tizzy

Hopefully, nothing.


You are the second person I've heard say this. In a Utopian society, that would work very well. Unfortunately, such a society is a myth, or is at least an illusion put on by governments that are doing all the bad things we are talking about here. For example, a crime-free society would be Utopian, but the security controls and lack of liberty would not be worth it.

Still, back on "nothing". I respect the honesty, but I doubt I'll see a bunch of people screaming, "The government should do nothing at all!" the next time there is a debate on security vs. privacy caused by some sort of security measure. I don't think that argument would have gone far at all on 9-12-2001. As a matter of fact, I heard many people screaming that the gov't didn't do enough. Most are the same people now screaming that gov't does to much. (and by gov't, I mean GWB, of course). The most radical are screaming both at the same time! How many "truthers" out there are upset because they think GWB knew about 9-11 are the same ones upset because of measures designed to prevent the next one? We need a happy medium that is somewhere between Gestapo and anarchy. Of course, that would piss everyone off. Come to think of it, maybe we are there now.

An old quote that can't be brought up too often: "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety" Ben Franklin

Yes, it can. I see your Franklin and raise you two Hamiltons and a pair of Franklins

Constitutions should consist only of general provisions; the reason is that they must necessarily be permanent, and that they cannot calculate for the possible change of things.
Alexander Hamilton

Even to observe neutrality you must have a strong government.
Alexander Hamilton

Distrust and caution are the parents of security.
Benjamin Franklin

Even peace may be purchased at too high a price.
Benjamin Franklin

Re:What IS OK? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17304410)

Not to troll either, but you forgot to mention abortion, gay marriage, and Global Wobble in your post.

But seriously, drudging up private pictures could be very fruitful for stalkers and ID thiefs. Say, if I saw a picture of you and some girl at the NSync concert, and then see that you and the girl live in different cities, I could write to you saying

"Hello Archer this is Brittney, I am in real trouble right now with police, I need to show them I was with you at 9pm and not murdering someone, could you fax me your stubs and sale receits ASAP at 123345567 and call the cops here at 123345567."

After you do that I could call up the credit company "Hi this is Archer I had my identity stollen and someone just bought two tickets, could you re-issue my credit card, yes yes same address"

Then stop by your mailbox after the delivery in 3-5 business days.

Re:What IS OK? (2, Interesting)

crabpeople (720852) | more than 6 years ago | (#17306030)

"What is OK for governments to use to fight terrorism"

Ok well to start, you cant fight a philosophy. What you are perhaps asking is that the government do more to fight Criminals. I would say that we have enough laws already to fight criminals. Some would say that this is a brave new world we live in and they need better tools to keep up with the crimes. I disagree that the world has magically changed and that we need to become a police state to fight for security. You will never be secure, because security is a concept of the mind (thats why gun enthusiasts think that they can buy security, they are somewhat right). Even your american founding fathers knew this in what was argueably a more savage and brutal world than the one we live in. They say clearly, dont sacrifice liberty for security, and I think whatever country you live in that thats a good idea. I would suggest that you instead look at the root causes and motivations of these particular criminals. Bin laden has said specifically what he wanted, most notably the USA out of the middle east. Why not start with that?

No big deal, it won't work anyways (3, Insightful)

bigtrike (904535) | more than 6 years ago | (#17303852)

Unless face recognition has improved drastically, this company will just fail like the last couple companies which attempted to do anything with it.

Re:No big deal, it won't work anyways (3, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304332)

Unless face recognition has improved drastically, this company will just fail like the last couple companies which attempted to do anything with it.

Wrong: nowadays, anything that remotely has to do with security, identification, tracking and general populace control (to save us all from all these hordes of terrorists of course) is big money. Look at most of the advances in computing these days: they're almost all about biometrics, RFID, detectors of this-or-that... Most of it is hype, but it nets whomever spews it a lot of government money.

Finally (2, Funny)

MaGogue (859961) | more than 6 years ago | (#17303864)

Ach, so I will finally be able to look up this lovely Russian girl I've met online.
She's been sending me pictures of herself (chuckles) and her name is Sonya..
She's SO sexy she's got me worried, but my worries will finally go away as soon as I check her photo with this new service!!!

Re:Finally (2, Funny)

Enzo the Baker (822444) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304076)

Here, I found her [sexchange.com] for you.

Re:Finally (1)

MaGogue (859961) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305814)

Here, I found her for you.
Ja!! That is her!!

Wait..

Where did YOU get her photo!?

Yes, they will. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 6 years ago | (#17303904)

Will people be so keen to put their lives on Flickr once anyone from ID thieves to governments can find out their name, and who they associate with?"

The bad guys already know so hiding only hurts your friends. The resources they own are the ISP, your non free OS, your phone calls and public "security cameras". Your friends only have what you can give them. The bad guys want to limit your ability to match their power and knowledge. The only solution is to guard what's really private and give rest away as freely as possible.

Now, the Permanent Record (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#17303928)

And now, every picture on Myspace will become part of your Permanent Record.

But at least dating sites will be able to filter out copies of pictures of famous people and porn stars.

Re:Now, the Permanent Record (1)

DamnStupidElf (649844) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305040)

And now, every picture on Myspace will become part of your Permanent Record.

And every picture you take of public figures and post on the Internet will be part of the permanent record, too. The power of an open society is that the rich and powerful cannot hide their actions from scrutiny.

Witness Protection (4, Interesting)

jeffkjo1 (663413) | more than 6 years ago | (#17303984)

I'm curious how things like this will work with Witness Protection.

Setting aside the fact that, at least right now, sunglasses fool these systems... if someone, lets say, a member of the Talini Crime family wants to find a rat. By giving a picture of him to this company, they could then search for pictures on the internet he appears in.

Considering how many pictures people take with random people in the background, it seems inevitable that said rat would turn up.

South Polar Rose (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304016)

Is there a South Polar Rose ?
I've had a bunch of photos with no faces that I'd like to put names to for quite awhile now.
Tommy Lee was nice enough to identify one of them, but the others are just, well, unknown roses.

What's new? (1)

pele_smk (839310) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304098)

Sure this sounds bad, but look at the rest of the web. Kids on myspace posting pictures of themselves doing drugs, underage drinking, etc... We've all heard of the dangers checking email at coffee shops, told not to follow links from our email to bank accounts, not to talk to strangers, the list could go forever and do we ever stop and think about the dangers? Sure for about a week, then the world forgets the rest. We're untouchable, next risk please. Oh, STDs, hmmm if I apply the method of this article "stop doing X" we should all be fine. Good luck.

Face Recognition, Body Recognition, ... (5, Insightful)

LionKimbro (200000) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304106)

It will not be very long (a decade? two decades?) before face, body, gait, license plate, voice, speech, handwriting, textual habits, (and so on) recognition software will be powerful enough to recognize people in real-time, from a variety of real-time inputs.

Even the past will be open to analysis, a theme called "retroactive surveillance." For example, the Seattle bus system keeps timestamped footage of people coming in and out of the bus, and the Seattle bus system keeps records of where the buses are, and when, by GPS. In theory, these two systems can be correlated, and, if you have a system for analyzing faces, you should be able to connect the "network of data" to figure out who is where and when. This type of correlation is what software visionaries are working hard to achieve, with efforts such as the Semantic Web.

People who are worried about "the mark of the beast," through such things as RFID tags and so on, are worried about the wrong thing. You won't need to "wear" anything. You won't need any special marks, once software is sufficiently capable. Your face, your clothes, the way you walk, your posture, the regular patterns you follow every day, your voice, all are sufficient enough, in themselves, to serve as the "mark of the beast."

It is conceivable that you will be able to limit government use of this sort of technology. But will you be able to stop private users from using this sort of technology? If you envision a future revolution of some sort, do you believe that the revolutionaries would not use this technology themselves? To track the motion of police vehicles, and individual policemen, and the people who work for and against you?

The underlying activities behind these technologies: Collecting information, seeing, hearing, sensing, and then correlating what is seen, what is heard- these are foundational. The "problem" is simply intelligence, itself.

I doubt that willful blindness or doubt is going to help us in our path to the future. We see that backwards countries practicing willful blindness, not advanced ones.

Re:Face Recognition, Body Recognition, ... (1)

kabocox (199019) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305060)

It is conceivable that you will be able to limit government use of this sort of technology. But will you be able to stop private users from using this sort of technology? If you envision a future revolution of some sort, do you believe that the revolutionaries would not use this technology themselves? To track the motion of police vehicles, and individual policemen, and the people who work for and against you?

This could be very, very neat if you control info or ads. Say you own a taxi cab company, with this tech you could retroactively find out who you've been carrying around where and when with GPS and a time stamp. A tax cab company owner may not have use for the info himself, but he could sell the data either per person or wholesale to others that would like it. The tech exists for police to scan 2 lanes of traffic and run all license plates through NCIC or a local database. It costs 20K-30K a piece depending on model and features though. Wait until the price drops to 200-300K and your car could record every car around you "just in case" some has an accident with you and drives away, you'll have their license plate and the plates of all the witnesses at the time of the event. You could collect/sell information about whom you see going to work or driving around daily. NCIC is a police database. How long will it be until some one creates license plate tracker.org where you could put into a license plate info and buy/sell information about where that license plate has been at any given time? It's only a matter of time.

Re:Face Recognition, Body Recognition, ... (2, Insightful)

natedubbya (645990) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305682)

It will not be very long (a decade? two decades?) before face, body, gait, license plate, voice, speech, handwriting, textual habits, (and so on) recognition software will be powerful enough to recognize people in real-time, from a variety of real-time inputs.

I think your decade or two is far too short a time prediction. These technologies will take much longer than you anticipate before they are usable in the manner you describe. You even mention the Semantic Web as a means of putting together these complicated tasks....what's funny about this is that the semantic web is pointless if we have Natural Language Understanding. In many respects, language understanding is just as difficult (more difficult, most likely) as these other intelligent tasks. Predictions about technology due tend to be in the 10-20 year range, but recent history shows that we need far more time. Marvin Minsky advised the creation of "2001: A Space Oddysey" back in 1968. We are now 33 years since then, 5 years after 2001, and the state of the art in Artificial Intelligence isn't even 10% of what HAL represented.


Re:Face Recognition, Body Recognition, ... (2)

DM9290 (797337) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305706)

"It is conceivable that you will be able to limit government use of this sort of technology. But will you be able to stop private users from using this sort of technology? "

easy enough. Put a hard legal limit on the processing power any person is allowed to possess. Measured in gigaflops or some other metric. The same way most places have legal limitations on what kinds of weapons a person is allowed to possess. There is no moral difference between a computer and a weapon. Both can be used for good or harm. Alternatively.. make it a crime to use facial recognition software without the consent of the person who's face is to be recognized.

Use your imagination.

"If you envision a future revolution of some sort, do you believe that the revolutionaries would not use this technology themselves? To track the motion of police vehicles, and individual policemen, and the people who work for and against you?"

Not sure what your point is here.

"The underlying activities behind these technologies: Collecting information, seeing, hearing, sensing, and then correlating what is seen, what is heard- these are foundational. The "problem" is simply intelligence, itself."

Right.. similarily weapons are so easy to make and use.. its irrational to ban murder.

the problem is anger itself.

no. the problem is murder. likewise the problem is intrusive use of datamining and IT.

"I doubt that willful blindness or doubt is going to help us in our path to the future. We see that backwards countries practicing willful blindness, not advanced ones."

backwards countries have more privacy protection laws than advanced ones?

Re:Face Recognition, Body Recognition, ... (1)

LionKimbro (200000) | more than 6 years ago | (#17306216)

Put a hard legal limit on the processing power any person is allowed to possess.

Nice; You'll also need to put a hard legal limit on the ability of people to congre-^H^H^H to network their intellig-^H^H^H devices.

Alternatively.. make it a crime to use facial recognition software without the consent of the person who's face is to be recognized.

Sure, but how are you going to monitor something like that? You'll need something like the Secure Hardware Environment. [sdsu.edu]

Re: your gun analogy.

I don't think your work by analogy really works here.

Consider: The laws around guns and murder are very complex. Can you own a gun? Why would you want to own a gun? For what purposes is it legal to own a gun? Where can you point a gun? Can you have something that looks like a gun, but isn't? When is murder legal? When is murder illegal? When is it illegal, but you can get away with it?

Are our answers to those questions shaped by how easy it is to get ahold of a gun? Are our answers to those questions shaped by our ability to gather evidence from the scene of a crime? If you couldn't find bullets, blood, or any other evidence, after a gun had been used, is it reasonable to believe that our laws about guns would be different? Is it reasonable to believe that our world would be different, if that's how things worked?

If so, then I don't think your gun analogy works very well.

backwards countries have more privacy protection laws than advanced ones?

Backwards countries fear empowered people. "Ideas," and such.

Privacy, especially a forced privacy, hinders the flow of ideas; Just ask any Iranian blogger, who is having privacy forced onto them.

By limiting the processor count and such, you are forcing privacy on people. You're also, quite materially, limiting their intelligence.

I think if we limit our intelligence, as a people, we'll just end up harming ourselves.

Re:Face Recognition, Body Recognition, ... (2)

Dr Reducto (665121) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305738)

You don't really even need to be discreet to get a lot of personal information. Look at Facebook. People are willing to do the work FOR you, populating data sets.

The reason you don't have to worry about invading anyone's privacy is that like Scott Adams says: People like to talk more than they like to listen. And that's why the government conspiracists always make me laugh. They think that the government will one day track everything you do by force, when in reality, private corporations have already been freely given a vast amount of information simply out of convenience

Re:Face Recognition, Body Recognition, ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17306170)

"It will not be very long (a decade? two decades?) before face, body, gait, license plate, voice, speech, handwriting, textual habits, (and so on) recognition software will be powerful enough to recognize people in real-time, from a variety of real-time inputs."

Body? Gait?

Suddenly, the "Ministry of Silly Walks" [wikipedia.org] starts making sense.

Popularity of Latex Noses... (1)

littlewink (996298) | more than 6 years ago | (#17306250)

ears, et al will increase. I've been wearing my latex nose in public for 4 years now and always keep my hair tucked under my tinfoil-lined cap. And my John Wayne imitation is getting better and better.

a porn application (1, Insightful)

leroybrown (136516) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304138)

this kind of technology will certainly make it easier to find those individual chicks i see in porn that i want to see more of.

Re:a porn application (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304552)

find those individual chicks i see in porn that i want to see

      Kinda gives a whole new meaning to the term "facial" recognition when you put it that way, doesn't it?

Well.. (1)

KeepQuiet (992584) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304182)

If you put your pictures online, everyone can see it, copy it, and (gasp!) even draw funny a mustache on your face. If you want to post your pictures online, use passwords, restrict the access. It is amazing that people whine about privacy when they have no regard about their own.

I guess (1)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304192)

That they are really trying to find out if it's truely Britney in that video.....

So this is why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17304274)

I always had this inexplicable feeling that I shouldn't post pictures of myself on my Flickr. I couldn't really explain why. And now I'm glad that I haven't. Ha!

wild goose chase (2, Insightful)

BigPoppaT (842802) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304290)

As other posters have pointed out, once something is online, it's not private anymore. Complaining about the 'privacy concerns' of this software bugs me, because it's a distraction from real privacy issues.

Reminds of the Libertarian Party (of which I am, unhappily, a member) - seriously complaining about trivial issues means that people will trivialize your complaints about serious issues.

Easier exams! (1)

guysmilee (720583) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304446)

Wow I can use this to find someone that matches my student card. With any luck they'll know a little about mappings to NP hard problems.

Easy -- Spam it with Photoshopped images (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17304488)

Oooh! Like Osawma Yermama and POTUS or Bill Gates and underage girls.
Or how about... (filters just kicked in)

Oh *come* *on* (2, Insightful)

Grismar (840501) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304558)

Are we really going to pretend we didn't know technology like this was coming? Are we going to act all heated with righteous indignation about something that researchers have been chasing after for decades?

Everybody knew about it and expected this technology to be perfected sooner or later (and for now it seems that it's still a bit later). So, if you were that worried about someone being able to Flickr and Google your personal relationships together, you should have thought twice about putting your entire life up for digital scrutiny in the first place.

The privacy problem isn't with this technology, it's with people who put their personal life on the biggest computer network ever, freely accessible to all and then expect it to be private.

They need to get their head examined and by the looks of it, that's exactly what they'll get.

Re:Oh *come* *on* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17305134)

You are correct. And the fact that someone can link pictures I have chosen to put on one site with Bios I have chosen to put on another really doesn't bother me.

But do a search online for any named tourist attraction or well known restaurant.

You will see pictures of hundreds of people that often had no idea the picture was being taken.

They have no right because the laws protecting images were created at a time when no one believed technology would come this far.

A few years ago if I wanted to spend time at a soccer game and tell my wife that I was at work. Fine not very moral but I made the decision and the odds of being discovered were low.

Now if I choose to keep a secret about my activities or events the only way I can do it is not to be seen in public.

Did we know it was coming. Of course that is why so many people have been writing doom and gloom stories about it.

Is it too late to stop it. Yeah probably. It probably was long before we invented it. Its one of those ideas that will just happen.

Welcome to a world where you can no longer do anything that you would want to keep within a certain community. Can you see the day where you attend a gay rights rally and your boss (assuming he is a bit of a bigot. ) fires you when he dose a search using your employee ID.

When you go into church and your preacher pulls out photos from a web cam opposite a local bar and uses it as an example of sin.

As the old saying goes. Those who have nothing to hide have nothing to worry about.

I hope you like everyone else is this sweet innocent internet community have never been pictured doing anything you would not want any specific person to know about.

Lets imagine a society where everyone avoids being seen in activities they would not be comfortable with any one indevidual knowing about.

Makes autocratic government a lot easier to implement dont you think.

LawL (1)

SuperStretchy (1018064) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304578)

Now you can find out your neighbor's true identities, their "stage names", and what movies they've been in.

How to screw it over (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#17304814)

If you're concerned with online pictures of you and your associates, you can flood the software with bad data. Make sure you photoshop pictures of you with every head of state in the world, the top celebrities (even Paris Hilton! Ride the town bicycle!), and assorted faces of high media exposure. Put them all online for this software to make associations between these people and you. Maybe Jennifer Aniston will finally call you.

Flood the data pool with garbage.

Dating sites... (2, Insightful)

teutonic_leech (596265) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304854)

I think many of the people submitting their images to dating or adult sites should start worrying right now...

This has probably been around for a while. (1)

suparjerk (784861) | more than 6 years ago | (#17304932)

"Will people be so keen to put their lives on Flickr once anyone from ID thieves to governments can find out their name, and who they associate with?"

One thing to keep in mind is that the government generally ALWAYS has its hands on certain technologies LONG before the general public sees them (and often times before the general public even knows they exist). This technology has probably been developed and in existence for a while. The above quote might be better written as: "Will people be so keen to put their lives on Flickr once they realize governments can find out their name, and who they associate with?"

Not a problem (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305128)

Just have the contents of a robots.txt file tattooed on your forehead.

what about the applications? (1)

dingDaShan (818817) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305322)

This technology would be amazing when working with photo software to add metadata. I would in fact pay a lot for something that would search through my 40,000 photos and tag people as appropriate. It would make life a lot easier.

No Problem (1)

boristdog (133725) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305406)

When I did the celebrity face search [myheritage.com] It matched me 96% with Kenneth Branagh.

So I can steal HIS ID now.

Controlling how "public" information is used. (1)

bill_kress (99356) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305830)

I think we just have to accept that once we have made information public, it is eventually going to be used and abused in every way possible.

If you don't want that, try to keep your online profile as low as possible--there isn't much else you can do.

This always get to me--like when a guy (it happens every couple years) goes to the DMV and buys the DMV database and puts it online--all of a sudden everyone raises a stink. THE RECORDS ARE THERE--because this guy did something "new" with them is not a bad thing, perhaps making them available in the first place WAS.

There is also the implied fact/perception: people are "Trusting" that because the DMV is selling them for $300 or whatever, only businesses will buy them and therefore it's okay, it's the fact that this guy "Subverted" the business purposes and made them public is somehow worse. This is the stupidest pile of crap I've ever heard (and yeah, you hear that argument every time there is a discussion about this stuff).

Everyone would probably be a "Privacy Nazi" if they were smart enough to figure out what could be done with the information they are making public.

Current Technology Scary Enough (2, Interesting)

SPYvSPY (166790) | more than 6 years ago | (#17305968)

A friend of mine works for a security firm here in NYC. They do camera system installs for certain *really*, *really* high security locations. If he wanders around in certain areas of the city, he'll have a nice email the next morning retracing his steps with still photos at various locations. The surveillance operators just feed the system a headshot and the rest is history. Sure, it's a little joke amongst co-workers, but it's fully possible today, right now.
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