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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Big Brother has You in Sight

By harnessing the vast wealth of publicly available cloud-based data, researchers are taking facial recognition technology to unprecedented levels


"I never forget a face," goes the Marx Brothers one-liner, "but in your case, I'll be glad to make an exception." 

Unlike Groucho Marx, unfortunately, the cloud never forgets. That's the logic behind a new application developed by Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College that's designed to take a photograph of a total stranger and, using the facial recognition software PittPatt, track down their real identity in a matter of minutes. Facial recognition isn't that new -- the rudimentary technology has been around since the late 1960s -- but this system is faster, more efficient, and more thorough than any other system ever used. Why? Because it's powered by the cloud.  Source:  The

Marketplace's Steve Henn reports.

STEVE HENN: A couple weeks ago at a conference in Las Vegas, a professor from Carnegie Mellon University named Alessandro Acquisti showed me a neat trick. He takes out his iPhone and boots up a custom-made app. It's designed to take a picture of a person -- any person -- then using a facial recognition program made by PittPatt, the app compares that picture to profile photos published on Facebook. And bingo -- the person's identity is revealed.
HENN: Can you take my picture and see if you can identify me?
HENN: Yeah.
Sixty seconds later, Acquisti's iPhone has found me. It has my real name and a picture of me sitting with two of my kids on the stoop of my old house in Washington, D.C. It also had scanned the web and found a picture of me at cocktail party in Los Angeles, holding a martini, with my arm around a colleague. This picture actually got me in trouble with my mother-in-law.
ACQUISTI: The combination of these technologies is bringing us closer to a world where online and offline data merge.
And when the online and offline worlds merge...
ACQUISTI: The consequences can be cool, but also very creepy.
The app's creepiest trick comes next: It delivers its best guess at my Social Security number. In my case, it gets the number wrong. But if the app can figure out where you're born from scanning your Facebook page, it has a good shot of getting the number right.
So how did we end up here?  Full Article:  MarketPlace public radio  

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