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Saturday, January 18, 2020

Where everybody knows your face

I've seen this facial recognition software in action. It's both creepy and impressive.
Until recently, Hoan Ton-That’s greatest hits included an obscure iPhone game and an app that let people put Donald Trump’s distinctive yellow hair on their own photos.

Then Mr. Ton-That — an Australian techie and onetime model — did something momentous: He invented a tool that could end your ability to walk down the street anonymously, and provided it to hundreds of law enforcement agencies, ranging from local cops in Florida to the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security.

His tiny company, Clearview AI, devised a groundbreaking facial recognition app. You take a picture of a person, upload it and get to see public photos of that person, along with links to where those photos appeared. The system — whose backbone is a database of more than three billion images that Clearview claims to have scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites — goes far beyond anything ever constructed by the United States government or Silicon Valley giants.
Being publicly recognizable is not really a concern to someone like me, since I was never given a choice about going public on the Internet or not. But it is a massive problem for the average individual, even those who have been careful to avoid social media. Sooner, rather than later, nations and their lawmakers are going to have to decide whether to embrace or reject the use of identification technology. I assume that most of them are going to embrace it, although the governments that come after the complete collapse of the neo-liberal world order may not.

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37 Comments:

Blogger MATT January 18, 2020 12:07 PM  

Between this, the deepfakes, the AI fake model generators, the future is looking cinematic to say the least.

Blogger NewTunesForOldLogos January 18, 2020 12:32 PM  

The internet is forever. Or at least until the next Carrington event.

Blogger KPKinSunnyPhiladelphia January 18, 2020 12:59 PM  

I'm surprised, though for now pleased, that these guys have not gone to, say, the Standing Committee of the Chinese communist party. Or Iran. I bet they'd fork over a subscription fee, and a substantial one at that.

Privacy is so 18th century. You WILL be watched.

Blogger tublecane January 18, 2020 1:07 PM  

There's a small town nearby, full of indirect relations. If I ever step foot within city limits, it feels as though 70 people know within the hour.

Those are country folk and I'm more suburb/city folk, but we form community of a sort with one-another. That's the smalltown thing. Not always just, but fair in its way.

The state could never duplicate it. Not with the most sophisticated technology possible. Because all eyes watching you means something else with them.

The only other entity that can keep people in line by keeping an ever-vigilant eye is God.

Blogger Hammerli 280 January 18, 2020 1:08 PM  

I've thought for some time that the period between 1940 and 1990 would come to be regarded as the Golden Age of Privacy. We're returning to a scaled-up version of the old small town...where everybody knows everybody else.

The problems are:
1. A century ago, you could move away from a scandal. There was a cost in reestablishing yourself, but it was possible to wipe the slate clean. Today, you can't.

2. In the early 1900s, you could get away with a lot if you were discreet. Today? Hell, I suspect there are backdoors built into just about every Internet-connected item with a microphone or camera.

Blogger Section 8A January 18, 2020 1:17 PM  

The parasitic sickos (Pelosi, AOC, Cantor, Reid types) will jump at the chance to control others' behavior. They seem to get off on the idea.

After the collapse? Yes, that will be interesting. It all seems to hinge on what happens to The Controllers during the Collapse.

Blogger Doktor Jeep January 18, 2020 2:15 PM  

.... straightens bowtie...
But Vox! It's not a violation of the NAP to track people in public spaces! REeeeeeee!

I have been dabbling in OpenCV since 2011 and there's a reason why I keep my hair long and let it hang down in front of my face. Oh, get a haircut hippy, they said. Stop being an omega/geek/phag and start looking like a human being, they said. What are you going to write some bad poetry about neglected rose gardens? Emo is out of style, they said...


"Anonymous" by SSQ turns out to be prophetic and it won't get out of my head.

Blogger bramley January 18, 2020 2:27 PM  

'Australian'... yeah, righto then.

Blogger MagnusStout January 18, 2020 2:34 PM  

Two waves seem to be converging: 1) private database uses (tracking debtors, criminals, etc...) and 2) government “security” uses (China, UK, etc...). Technology of this kind has simply outrun the law. While there are some compelling benefits, the chance for abuse outweighs the benefits. The trend (led by our Promethians) is to embrace this tech for a Brave New World. I can’t find serious counter-movements other than a few individuals (Richard Stallman, for all his faults, seemed to understand this challenge).

Blogger Timmy3 January 18, 2020 2:46 PM  

Isn’t false identification worse than correct identification? People are not correctly identified from surveillance webcams and the Ring doorbell so facial recognition is hardly being exploited at least not yet.

Blogger bodenlose Schweinerei January 18, 2020 3:09 PM  

goes far beyond anything ever constructed by the United States government or Silicon Valley giant

How would they know? Those two groups aren't out blabbing about their sinister surveillance activities for a little ego boost is all.

Blogger Dave January 18, 2020 3:25 PM  

Most people have thrown in the towel when it comes to privacy. Already if you choose to carry a cellphone or make electronic transactions your location is tracked. Practically everywhere you go, you are on camera now. Facial recognition just makes it that much easier and faster to identify people. Obviously, the authorities will clamor for it to aid in manhunts and tracking individuals on watchlists, etc. But what does it mean for the average person; personalized messages and advertisements when buying gas or groceries?

Blogger ADS January 18, 2020 3:35 PM  

Time to get down with the clown and wear your juggalo makeup to fool facial recognition scans. Who knew we would be living in a literal clown world?

Blogger Unknown January 18, 2020 3:47 PM  

Allegedly, The gate of your walk is also a factor in the recognization process.

Blogger Kiwi January 18, 2020 3:58 PM  

Some of our shops have facial recognition cameras, it's creepy. I asked staff if it was to keep an eye on them. They said no, it's to keep an eye on you.

However, I recently attended a fancy dress party and although not particularly disguised, even people who knew me well did not recognise me, most enjoyable. I'm sure one can still fool the cameras, but once they have a good database and pick up an unknown, then yeah it's game over.

As for the Aussies, bound to have a bug. Haha, no seriously there's a lot of tech work and advanced engineering that goes up to the states, the government doesn't want to pay for it here. Eg the Americas military amphibious vehicles are designed by our peeps. We've got some here in private use, but they're more for going to get a latte in a flood than raiding a swamp for moonshiners.

Blogger Wazdakka January 18, 2020 4:48 PM  

Its already in use by government agencies. The met police were using it over ten years ago. If you have a passport your details are already there. UK recently moved to 5 year updates to keep photos accurate. New smart televisions mostly have cameras for facial recognition. I would think that MI5, CIA, FSB etc all have the capability to track and find individuals this way. Although carrying your mobile kinda makes this superfluous.

Blogger Ariadne Umbrella January 18, 2020 5:43 PM  

Did you see the part about being Viet royal in exile. Well, descended from Viet aristo?

At last- the Viet revenge on Westerners is here!

And, just, wow, textbook they all have to go back. People with American names are saying you cannot do this: it violates social norms and the law, while people with obviously foreign names are shrugging and playing helpless as the 'great and the good' set about surveilling and oppressing them.

It's almost like they weren't here, and did not know, that regular people threw off the shackles of the great and the good after a ferocious war.

Blogger mgh January 18, 2020 6:52 PM  

Soon I will walk into a store I've never been in. I will be greeted by name, and then they will try to sell me something based upon recent purchases made elsewhere. In the storefront window will be a logo identifying it as a Facebook affiliate. Unfortunately many women will love it, going so far as to try to create a fake online persona so they will be treated royally at the trendiest shops.

Blogger Bobiojimbo January 18, 2020 6:54 PM  

@1 Aye. The cyberpunk future gets closer.

Blogger JovianStorm January 18, 2020 7:17 PM  

In Asia, we often wear surgical masks to avoid pollen or flu viruses... If this kind of thing was culturally accepted in the West it would go a long way in frustrating these kinds of systems.

The 20s are going to be a new Cold War between data exploiting actors and private citizens who do not care to be exploited. Expect the cyber arms race to be vigorous, no-holds-barred and full of smiles as the government tries to assure us that nothing is wrong just give us your soul.

Blogger Daniele Grech Pereira January 18, 2020 8:06 PM  

They won't be able to embrace it if they lose the technological capacity.

Blogger nswhorse January 18, 2020 8:26 PM  

Hoan Ton-That. A true Aussie name.

Blogger JACIII January 18, 2020 8:42 PM  

Asked about the implications of bringing such a power into the world, Mr. Ton-That seemed taken aback.

“I have to think about that,” he said. “Our belief is that this is the best use of the technology.”


He never even considered it.

Blogger God Emperor Memes January 18, 2020 11:05 PM  

"Australian techie", eh?

Blogger God Emperor Memes January 18, 2020 11:12 PM  

You don't have to move away from scandal. - People have incredibly short memories, and many simply don't care about anything anyway. As an example, I would direct you to the neverending scandals and murders that have surrounded the Clintons for the last forty years.
Politicians correctly rely on voters not being able to recall what happened five years ago.
Sure, the information is always out there now, but most people aren't interested.

Blogger Ingot9455 January 18, 2020 11:14 PM  

Yes, gait recognition is real too. Apparently a face mask is not enough. You have to wear juggalo makeup so the light/dark lines on your face are totally different; then wearing a body shape concealing suit; then get a grant for the development of a portfolio of Silly Walks from the Department.

I work for a hospital corporation and recently asked what we were doing in the field. I was told, "We're watching it, but customers think it's too creepy and a turn-off so we're going to stick with the wristbands and incessantly asking you your name and birthday for a while."

If you go back to Dale Carnegie's HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE there's a bit about how someone's name is the most beautiful thing that they like to hear and you should learn to call everyone by their name. Advertisers and mega-marketers and mail-mergers have overused it. Now I hate being called by my name now because it means someone I don't know looked me up on a computer.

It won't be long until we're at that point in the movie MINORITY REPORT where you walk by a store and the billboard calls out, "Please visit us MISTER ANDERSEN, we have a sale just for you!"

Blogger Sargent.matrim January 19, 2020 3:26 AM  

If a side effect of the laws that precede these events, could be a ban on cameras on every handheld phobe/tablet device, that would be awesome.

I miss the world where people only took their cameras with them for certain occasions.

Now we are photographed everywhere we are, and with technology like this, that freedom should just not be allowed.

The very act of having to carry a separate camera would de-incentivise most prople from carrying one.

But sadly, people will have to see the negative effects of our over saturated personal media device culture, before they cry out against it.

Blogger Sillon January 19, 2020 5:07 AM  

What are the chances that this "software" only recognizes white people accurately... I wonder.

Blogger justthinkin January 19, 2020 6:10 AM  

So, burkas?

Blogger Gregory the Tall January 19, 2020 6:52 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Gregory the Tall January 19, 2020 6:53 AM  

Quite a while ago I read a book by science fiction author David Brin in which he expressed the hope that the watchers would be watched in the digital age. For example he pleaded for installing cameras inside the offices of the IRS, city councils, police stations etc. and feed the images to the public so that normal citizens would be able to observe their tax dollars at work - or not at work... If this software were available to anybody it would go a long way towards watching the watchers.

Blogger Gregory the Tall January 19, 2020 6:55 AM  

Sillon wrote:What are the chances that this "software" only recognizes white people accurately... I wonder.
A black face is more difficult to recognize than a white one when it is dark.

Blogger Stilicho January 19, 2020 7:35 AM  

@silion pretty much. It doesn't recognize blacks well. Asians a bit better. Whites most of all.

Hats and glasses help (especially those ultra reflective ones made for the purpose). But right now there isn't a good way to unobtrusively defeat it. If there is, let me know.

Blogger The Depolrable Podunk Ken Ramsey January 19, 2020 10:51 AM  

The article recounted a law enforcement case where the algorithm matched not on facial features but on a tattoo. It's so much easier to match on a very unique pattern like that rather than generic facial features! Matching strictly on facial features is rather fraught with peril. There are lots of false alarms. It's not surprising that Clearview might achieve greater performance by expanding the feature set.

And how galling for the GenX'ers and millennials who have followed the social trends and tatted themselves up! It's an expression of individuality which ironically has made an attack vector on individualism itself. Matching faces is hard. Matching tattoos is fish-in-a-barrel type stuff.

Blogger Ariadne Umbrella January 19, 2020 12:32 PM  

There's a chance that tattoos were pushed for exactly this reason: the tech unveiled today was worked on for twenty years previous, in labs, with theoreticians trying to think of applications.

I can guess this is true, in that the mainstream media tattoo articles always covered tribal tattoos and modern art tattoos, but never covered Dalmatic coastline tattoos. Christians would tattoo themselves with signs for "Nazarene" "Christian" and so on, on their hands and face, visibly, especially women, so that if they were kidnapped and sold into the Muslim world, their bodies would testify to their faith. Women tattooed their daughters' faces and hands, the only body parts visible when wearing Muslim garb.

One theory is that this made the girls less attractive to kidnappers. Who would want to buy a slave that was obviously marked to belong to a God and faith, rather than your own welcome mat to be used sexually. I mean, if you want to enjoy humiliating a possession, a thing, it is really inconvenient to have that thing claiming a soul and immortal dignity. I'd submit the quotes from Jewish pornographers in America today, and the brothel owners in Israel currently, for the best comparison of mindsets. I don't have any quotes from Turkish or Arabic slave owners, currently. But, the Roosh article about what Instagram models endure when they go to MENA oil entrepots is probably in that genre.

The National Geographic world-spanning documentary series about body modification managed to miss that entire region of tattoo traditions. They could go hiking with cannibals on obscure Pacific Islands, or find groups of 200 smelly, rude Amazonian primitives, but they could not get on a well-appointed, plush train to a European country to interview literate, well-spoken European grandmothers.

The Ottoman slave and harem system was not broken until 1917. There are grandchildren of the women released from their harems living in America, writing books. The women sold into the harem were not 18. They were stolen and sold into the harem as children.

I mean, if you are going to survey your cattle from on high, do you want a reminder they have souls?

Blogger Ariadne Umbrella January 19, 2020 12:39 PM  

Also, when public transport and wide roads first became a thing in Paris (1600s, no joke) the fashion for elites slumming was to wear velvet masks, which shrank to velvet face dots. There are romance novels with all the characters masking and unmasking throughout the book.

I would not wear a paper surgical mask, a la Hong Kong in the fog, but I can see an enterprising factory making trendy spandex and lace face covers.

Muslims dumbed down the veils: Byzantine women wore veils- all varieties and colors- sheer, opaque, beaded, crocheted lace edged- Respectable women saw the world with just one eye, was one saying.

It really would not take much to make hat veils popular again. They were stripped down to nothing through the 1950s and 1960s, as they went from Christian firms making church hats to Jewish firms making hats for Christians. Considering how much money and effort young women put into cosplay clothes, I'd think making hats with veils popular again would not take much effort. Hats and veils are designed to obscure facial features- feathers, beads, the weave of the veiling, hat brims.

Blogger AE January 28, 2020 11:09 AM  

For anyone interested in how artificial intelligence can or will affect policing. Although not a super high quality publication, it certainly is an interesting read: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/international-journal-of-law-in-context/article/policing-the-smart-city/D107A5808D6561101FE1C54550AF2D95/core-reader#

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