Anonymity’s Gone, So Maybe We Should All Be Friends

Childhood FriendsOff-the-shelf facial recognition software combined with Facebook photos can be used to identify random people walking down any street. That was just one demonstration at Black Hat to make the point that anonymity, both in our personal lives and our workplaces, is quickly fading away.

Alessandro Acquisiti, the CMU researcher who presented the demonstration, wasn’t just using scare tactics.

The goal here is not to generate fear, but we are very close to a point where the convergence of technologies will make it possible for online and offline data to blend seamlessly … and for strangers on the street to predict certain information about you from your picture. As more services include facial-recognition capabilities and as developers can create applications using the technology, the privacy implications are staggering.

It’s strange, Acquisti pointed out, that some of the people who resist the idea of a national ID number have eagerly consented to a de facto ID via their info-filled social media profiles.

On the other hand, such techniques do have a positive side, most notably for law enforcement and its ability to “democratize surveillance” by bringing its costs down sharply. But once again, technology is moving much more quickly than our laws and our ethical consensus.

Source: eWeek