This time last year, there was a pretty big fuss about FindFace, an app that uses facial recognition to discover people’s identities with pretty high reliability. But for 33-year-old Fu Gui from China, facial recognition technology turned out to be life changing. It helped him find his family and reunite with them after being apart for 27 years.
There’s been a lot of buzz lately around AI, “deep learning”, computer vision. It’s all to do with image recognition. Apple and Google have also been implementing it with their mobile operating systems to help categorise your shots. Facebook also does this, too, although it rarely makes itself obvious. It’ll often see faces, and ask if you want to tag somebody. Sometimes it’ll even recognise the person. But that’s about it.
Facebook actually looks at a whole lot more, though. If you want to go digging through page source, you can find this information out yourself. But, it’s a bit of a hassle. Now, a new Chrome extension overlays the information right on top of the image in your browser. While primarily intended for those who use screen readers, it does offer insight into how Facebook automatically reports or censors certain images.
With facial recognition technology you can take pictures of people in the street, run them through publicly available photographs online, and get a match.
You would have heard this statement if you had been listening to the 20 September 2016 episode of Seriously on BBC Radio 4, called ‘The Online Identity Crisis’. I only heard it yesterday, though, as I caught up with it by podcast. It did, however, set me thinking. Just how likely, or easy, is it that someone should take a photo of me in the street, run said image through facial recognition software, and be able to identify me?
Well, this could be quite the problem for privacy advocates everywhere. In locations such the UK, it could cause even cause legal issues for things like the Data Protection Act. Pixelating faces is used throughout the world to conceal identities on camera. Often it’s to protect their identity. Sometimes they need protection, sometimes they’re caught in the background of footage about something else, and sometimes you just forgot to get a release signed.
Wired reports that researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and Cornell Tech claim to have trained a piece of software to see through it. The scariest thing about this is that the technology is already out there. They didn’t actually have to develop any new tools, simply feed a new set of data using existing facial recognition methods. The software then figured it out all by itself.
The internet is slowly (and painfully) discovering that security is a hard mistress. I mean fingerprints have been hacked, and passwords have not been delivering for a long time. Next step was having a camera look at your face to see if you are really you.
Of course, the early systems could be hacked with a high quality printed photo. So security added a “check if it’s alive” method. That in turn was hacked using tablets and videos. The next step was to check if the received images makes sense (so videos were out). But then hackers started using 3D printed masks.
But 3D masks are hard to create. Why not just grab a few of your social media photos, and use those to create a model that looks so real that it fools security systems.
And this is what the team at University of North Carolina did.
Snapchat might be quite a silly and frivolous app to some people, while others live on it. Regardless of your thoughts on its practical application, it employs some pretty serious technology in order to be able to do what it does with its “lenses”, or filters as most people call them.
From the same facial recognition principles found in your DSLR to advanced feature & motion tracking in 3D space, a lot of the technology, while advanced, isn’t really all that new. What is new is the ability for all these tasks to be performed together simultaneously in real time.
As if the facial recognition news coming out of Russia wasn’t creepy enough already, it’s now available in App form to users of popular Russian social media network, Vkontakte.
FindFace, which launched only two months ago, allows users to photograph people in a crowd and discover their identities with 70% reliability and could be the final nail in the coffin for privacy as we know it.
With drive-by shootings and gang violence rampant behind the curtains, within slums and neighborhoods that nobody on the outside pays attention to, Chicago is possibly one of the most troubled cities in the United States today. Around the beginning of last year, the Chicago Police department began implementing new technology by NEC into their order of operations – a facial recognition software called NeoFace.
A man named Pierre Martin was recently arrested for connections to two different armed robberies carried out between January and February of 2013; the new facial recognition software ended up capturing him in surveillance footage and linked him to a previous record. Just earlier, Martin was sentenced to twenty-two years in prison; he is now the first and only person to have been convicted with the use of NeoFace in aid of his arrest.