Internet Privacy and Facebook Facial Recognition Software

What does facial recognition software do?

A Carnegie Mellon University researcher recently proved the extent to which a person’s facial features alone can access information about that person.

Assembling a database of around 25,000 pictures acquired by Facebook, this researcher was able to identify individuals walking past him on a university campus with an astounding 31 percent accuracy. In other words, simply by looking at an individual’s facial features, this researcher’s computer program was capable of providing that researcher with the identity, relationship status, and physical address within around three seconds. For some, this technology poses an enormous privacy risk, as program users can know essentially all major details about a person simply by taking a picture of that person, and having a computer analyze that picture in a few seconds.

What are the potential benefits of such technology?

Benefits of the technology have immediately been hailed by various groups. Advertisers, for one, feel that this facial recognition technology could someday lead to more effective advertisements being sent to the individuals most inclined to purchase those goods. Perhaps, they argue, facial recognition technology could serve in a way similar to Google’s Adwords and similar technologies, which allow for the communication between two mutually interested parties.

Law enforcement officials also hail the technology as potentially beneficial for determining the identities for suspected criminals. Rather than relying on names, fingerprints, or other identifying markers, if police were able to use facial recognition software, perhaps they could more effectively complete their job. Prosecutors and other state officials could, perhaps, use technology to prevent wrongful convictions in the future.

What are the potential concerns about facial recognition technology?

Critics of the technology worry that facial recognition software would pose serious privacy concerns if precautions were not taken. They argue that such technology could manifest itself as a stalker’s dream come true. Since information could instantly be accessed about individuals seen at a distance by their mere appearance, stalkers and others could learn detailed information about individuals simply from looking at them from afar, and taking their picture.

Those concerned about the technology also have complained that, in the wrong hands, the technology could be exploited to limit anonymity and the freedom that it guarantees completely. For example, the personal information dating website users often choose not to reveal could be discovered if that user simply posts a single picture of himself/herself online. In the future, perhaps, critics have articulated that businesses, governments, and others could easily gain access to very personal information which could then be used against the individuals posting it.

Author Mike Young, Esq.

Mike Young has been practicing business and technology law since 1994 and is an angel investor in startups. He's been an entrepreneur since 1988. To get legal help from Attorney Young, click here now or call 214-546-4247 to schedule a phone consultation.

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