Monday, August 8, 2011

Here's Looking at You, Kid

Facebook has software that allows it to recognize people in photos. This feature introduced last December and currently being rolled out to the entire FB community, was designed to automate and ease the process of "tagging" or associating a name to the people in the photos you upload to the site. Facebook allows you to turn this feature off but it is far from obvious how to do so. You can find the instructions to opt out here.

Major corporations are developing innovative new uses for this technology. For instance, Coca Cola used facial recognition in a new marketing campaign in Israel. Kraft tested kiosks in grocery stores that recognized shoppers characteristics and made dinner recommendations.

Recently the NYPD added a new weapon to their arsenal to help find and arrest criminals. In Canada, this technology is in widespread use by the authorities, casinos and banks.

Airports around the world now employ it to spot would be criminals and terrorists.

This is one of those touchy subjects where the privacy advocates will no doubt come out of the woodwork, or wherever it is they hide, and loudly protest the loss of their beloved anonymity. Many will see this as a privacy issue. Indeed, the government of Germany recently protested on behalf of the EU alleging violations of their privacy laws.

So, have we finally arrived at 1984, or the world as depicted in Minority Report? Or do we finally have technology that can dramatically increase our ability to accurately identify and protect people?

Security specialists will tell you a two factor authentication process is far more secure than a simple ID and password. Three factor, better still. Multiple factor authentication systems involve the use of more than one element proving that you are who you say you are. Today in addition to your account identity, bank or credit card or other form of identification you are typically required to enter a password, security code or a PIN to authenticate yourself. Sometimes a physical token is involved.

Now, imagine if your computer, ATM machines, cash registers or the front door to your house could recognize you. What if your TV was smart enough to engage parental controls when there was no adult in the room? What if your car would only function if you or other designated drivers were behind the wheel? What if your smart phone only unlocked when you looked at it?

This technology can and will be put to good use in so many places. Like all technological advances, it will surely be abused and misused by some. I guess we'll just have to keep a close eye on it.

What are your thoughts? How does it all look to you?

Captain Joe

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