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Jun. 20, 2012

It's 10:00 PM, Do You Know Where Your Face Is?

by Ira Flatow

Click to enlarge images
One of my biggest "big brother" fears is that someone -- or everyone -- will be able to know exactly what you are doing any time of the day. We already have GPS which can track you while you walk, talk, or drive.  And as you travel through the streets of the world's larger cities, like London, New York, etc. cameras are snapping video of your face perhaps hundreds of times per day. (Last time I checked, it was 40 photos per day in London, but that was years ago.) 
 
Now add the technology of facial recognition, where computers now have the ability to recognize a face and put a name to it. And voila:  the ability to create a worldwide database of faces with names tagged to them. Mix in a supercomputer or two and facial recognition becomes almost instantaneous. You walk down 5th Ave, or go into Harrod's, and a camera picks up your face and you're "tagged" on the spot.  
 
Sounding paranoid? Well, Facebook's announcement  that they've acquired face.com "the world's largest and accurate face recognition platform" does not make me feel any less queasy. 
 
"Yeah," I hear you saying, "but who is going to release all those antispy-antiterrorist-antishoplifting-trafficcontrol camera photos to the public?"  I have no idea.  But the record of keeping digital stuff and bank records secret is scary enough that I don't want to be the first to say "told ya so."
 
It lends a whole different meaning to the term "saving face." You've seen folks wearing surgical masks for protection against air pollution and germs. How long until we're raiding the Halloween store for those gorilla heads? 
 
 
About Ira Flatow

Ira is the host and executive producer of Science Friday.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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