While this seems like science fiction, it’s not. Facial recognition software has supposedly been kicking around since the 60s, although it hasn’t hit the mainstream yet. Until now.
In an article yesterday, the Atlantic reported that a study at Carnegie Mellon University has successfully demonstrated facial recognition based in the clouds—unencumbered by database restrictions because the entire Internet is the database.
Using a facial recognition program called PittPatt, researchers “were able to not only match unidentified profile photos from a dating website (where the vast majority of users operate pseudonymously) with positively identified Facebook photos, but also match pedestrians on a North American college campus with their online identities.”
In the past, searches like these were limited to databases such as those used by law enforcement agencies. If people weren’t in the database, the system couldn’t find them.
Not so anymore. Facial recognition scans are a reality now, and fast identification (within a minute) through the Internet is a reality now as well.
It’s something law enforcement agencies and governments are, naturally, very interested in. According to the Atlantic, PittPatt started as a research project and became its own company in 2004. When it did, the U.S. intelligence community invested.
“At the time, U.S. intelligence was obsessed with using advanced facial recognition to identify terrorists,” wrote Jason Mick of DailyTech. “So the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) poured millions into PittPatt.”
Others were interested too. In July, Google bought PittPatt. (Need I point out how unnerving it is that Google—the Internet search goliath—now owns this technology? You too?)
In any case, facial recognition is already in use in the security and surveillance sector:
According to the Business Insider, police use an iPhone app to ID people on the streets. DMVs use a biometric database for IDs. Las Vegas casinos and Adidas stores are starting to use it for targeted advertising.
The SceneTap app uses cameras in bars to show what the crowd is like, so users can better decide where they want to go for the night. And in Japan, facial recognition is all over the place already, “from vending machines that make recommendations to truck stops that gauge the tiredness of drivers.”
So, no, it’s not science fiction. And I’m not sure how I feel about it. (Not that there’s anything I could do, anyway.)
It just seems weird. Eventually we’ll have a whole second identity in the clouds for everyone to see (one that’s way more in-depth than what governments have on us now). We won’t be anonymous anymore. Where will one identity end and the next begin?