Most people aren’t bothered by Facebook identifying their faces. That’s partly because Facebook is fairly innocuous (especially in Europe) compared to Russia’s latest social networking feature. FindFace, a new facial recognition app, takes a picture of a person on the street, runs it through a popular Russian social network, VKontakte, and matches the face to contact information and profile. This would be great, except that unsavory characters keep using it for less than honorable ends. Apparently, the idea was that people could get dates by identifying people on the street and learning about them before approaching. It’s like Facebook stalking, but creepier. And don’t bother denying your Facebook stalking. Everybody from your little brother to Big Brother knows you do it.
Russian dating schemes aside, facial recognition technology has been getting increasingly sophisticated, which presents plenty of privacy issues. Mass police collection and identification of license plates now extend to people inside the vehicle. So, the police and government can now track individuals. On the plus side, Faception, an Israeli startup, claims to be able to identity terrorists based on facial features, so maybe there’s a benefit to combining these abilities. That doesn’t change the fact that there are plenty of private people who prefer not to be tracked, but they should be fine so long as they don’t have terrorist faces. One must wonder what the error rate on that is.
On the other hand, companies like Google and Facebook are always looking to improve their security and privacy features. Hopefully, then, even if there are cameras on street corners straight out of 1984, people looking at the images won’t suddenly be imbued with crazy stalking power. That, or people will resign themselves to being stalked. After all, there are reasons so many are interested in developing the technology. Facial recognition has the potential to benefit businesses and advertising campaigns, law enforcement efforts, and family tree research, among other things. Plus, it makes clocking in way cooler.
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