Has Facebook identified you?

August 5, 2011

So, i’ve just got back from travelling (hence the lack of posts for 3 months) and after a little delay of my bag being left behind in Miami, I finally got my camera back and decided to upload my photos onto Facebook. Why? Ultimately to show my peers what an amazing time I had but also to reconnect with people I’d met along the way and for a personal trip down memory lane. After uploading my photos I was greeted by Facebook’s new face recognition software and my first emotion was relief. I cannot tell you the amount of times I’ve tagged everyone in a single album, only for my internet to crash (I live in the RURAL countryside) and for every SINGLE tag to be lost. Frustration doesn’t describe it. So it turns out Facebook has licensed Face.com to enable automated tagging, and it works. Impressively well. Tagging has never been so easy. But then I had another though, if face recognition software can detect a persons face and match it to their online identity.. doesn’t this raise a serious issue of privacy?

Imagine if you were on the tube to work, and everyday you saw this guy who you thought yeah he’s pretty good looking. And all you had to do was scan his face, and hey presto you know his interests, personal info, where he works.. pretty creepy, and definitely not something you’d anticipate. Instead of being greeted with “Hello, my name’s John”, it would be more along the lines of, “Hey [insert name], I’m a massive tennis fan too, fancy a hit on saturday morning before lunch with the girls?” Ok, so maybe this is going a little to far, but I guess it could easily be a possibility in the future. This kind of technology, and there are many other examples of it being used from Apple’s acquisition of Polar Rose for iPhoto and Google’s use of PittPatt into Picasa; is challenging our expectations of anonymity in our virtual world.

Also, it’s not like we can opt-out to protect ourselves. If you want to join Facebook or Google + you need to sign up with your real identity, plus a lot of data is already publicly available. Maybe we should just embrace it, who knows, we could even see some Minority Report advertising coming our way, but just to be on the safe side it may make many of us reconsider what we reveal about our offline self online.

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