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And so it begins. Carnegie Mellon researchers recently combined Facebook profile pictures and PittPatt‘s facial recognition software to identify supposedly-anonymous pictures from a dating site. Now they’re planning to demo a smartphone app that identifies faces by tapping into cloud-based image databases and recognition software. What’s next?
That’s a question I’ve been thinking about for a long time. Facial recognition via cloud computing is a major plot point in my novel Invisible Armies, which I wrote some seven years ago. When I got mugged in Mexico City a few years back, I promptly started musing about the benefits of a surveillance society. Which is on the way, make no mistake—if it isn’t here today.
There are cameras everywhere already. I don’t just mean the nearly 5 million CCTVs monitoring Britain, or the similar system planned for New York: I mean the world’s hundreds of millions of phone cameras, all of which will soon automatically upload every picture they take to cloud repositories. Charles Stross has suggested, and I agree, that police will soon wear always-on cameras while on duty, for legal reasons. Meanwhile, Moore’s Law keeps ticking along nicely, making facial recognition software ever faster, more powerful, and more accessible; cameras get ever better, cheaper, and more innocuous; and drones start taking to our skies as well as Afghanistan’s. Add it all up, and we’ll soon spend much of our lives in sight of cameras that can and will identify us by our faces in near-real-time.