Hide Your face, shield your eyes! The dark side of biometrics

The use of facial recognition is not something that only comes from totalitarian regimes. It’s being used for domestic spying, in malls and casinos. Combined with AI, biometrics can turn PI (Personal information) and PII (personally identifiable information) into a weapon. I bring this up every semester to make sure my students are aware of what they are opening themselves to, should they share information even on benign sites, or “trusted” browsers.

Biometrics involve “biological measurements” such as fingerprints, facial features, and retina scans. The Department of Homeland Security, explains that “biometrics are used to detect and prevent illegal entry into the U.S., grant and administer proper immigration benefits, vetting and credentialing, facilitating legitimate travel and trade, enforcing federal laws, and enabling verification for visa applications to the U.S.” You would think biometrics is something average citizens only need to worry about if they own a passport (the new ones have an embedded chip with biometric markers), or a smart phone with facial recognition.

But biometric detection is coming closer to us than we realize. Kaspersky, the software cybersecurity company explain how “Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill downloaded photos of 20 volunteers from social media and used them to construct 3-D models of their faces. The researchers successfully¬†breached four of the five security systems they tested.” Rental cars may soon come with biometric analyzers. Cities may use facial recognition without our knowledge as a pre-emptive way to assist law enforcement.

More alarming is the use of ‘public domain’ images to fuel the facial recognition business. The New York Times reports that family photos scrubbed off Flicker have been used to power surveillance technology. Hiding our faces, or making sure our children’s faces don’t show up in unscrupulous social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook may become a necessity. Or is it too late for those who have uploaded hundreds of photos to these leaky sites? As I warned manhttps://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/10/11/technology/flickr-facial-recognition.htmly times here and elsewhere these sites are “free” for a reason – they trade the data and meta-data of these posts and pictures without your knowledge. Digital human trafficking, in which many of us have become unwilling accomplices.

Interesting controversy. Tiffany and Co had to withdraw an ad that had a model covering her right eye. Why? It was accused of imitating the symbol of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, where protestors routinely cover their face, or eyes with a mask or helmet so as to avoid facial recognition cameras.  In fact, the mock eye patch has itself become a symbol of the protest.


“Flickr Commons” needs your help

This should have been included in my previous post.

Flickr has partnered with the Library of Congress in something called the Flickr Commons. The LOC has team allowed the photo sharing site to use 1,500 of its photographs (from its 1 million page catalog) on Flickr.

The more important part of this is the fact that the LOC is asking for your collaboration –to tag the photos.

This particular photograph is from a series from the Bain News Service, from 1910-1912.

Thanks for Hyperbio for this.

Using Flickr photos: is it social media’s carte blanche?

Interesting story of a controversial use of someone’s Flickr photo by Virgin Mobile.

AdRants reports that the family of someone is suing Virgin for using his photograph grabbed off Flickr for the ad campaign .

Which brings up the question: is it OK to use/link to someone’s picture because it is out there on a Creative Commons license? Or the larger question: Is the model release form in need of a re-write?

I have put up some of my photos here on my blog, via Flickr. I have not deemed them private, and they fall under the Creative Commons license –meaning they could be used for commercial reasons as long as they attribute the source. But I have to be careful. I don’t use pictures of my friends or family in that album. I know some others do.

CC Chapman (above) for instance, the epitome of all things in the new media space, a huge advocate of the commons and networking has loads of pictures up there. Robert Scoble’s photos of family and colleagues are everywhere.

Note, I am not copying or uploading this image of CC. I am simply linking to the URL, using the WordPress “insert image here” field. (I’ve previously used the image upload feature, but apart from it being cumbersome, it’s never seemed fair to copy someone’s logo or image onto my hard drive and upload it without their permission.)

But to get back to Virgin, consider the medium the campaign is promoting: phones. Virgin’s agency could not have been ignorant of the copyright envelope they were pushing. My guess is that it half expected this to happen and like all things Virgin, decided it was just “doing a Branson.”

And just to capture a delicious irony of how a Flickr lawsuit could end up, there’s a picture of a settlement check one photographer received after suing a company that had used her Flickr photo. Yes, that settlement and the check is on Flickr !