Quick thought on blogging, search, facial recognition

So I’m finally sitting in a coffee shop and using the laptop – whee! But seriously, a thought just occurred to me, I see other people here, writing on their laptops, and one looks familiar. I’m trying to place where I’ve seen this person before. I realize that I’ve seen their photo on their ‘about’ page on their blog.

Now, what if we could search on Google using a photo? What if I could hasten this recollection by taking a quick snapshot of the coffee shop patron that looked familiar, uploaded the jpeg somewhere and could search for a match? Find their blog or website or bio?

How’s that for social networking? Aren’t we just months or weeks away from such a facility, when you take into consideration all that is being done online these days? Is there already such a service somewhere and I just don’t know about it?

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6 Responses to Quick thought on blogging, search, facial recognition

  1. Ralf Beuker says:

    Niti, while I consider myself a tech-geek such a scenario would somehow scare me … on the other hand I’m pretty sure the colleagues from FBI, CIA, etc. already use similar technologies, but simply forgot to install a RSS-Feed at Feedburner.com yet 😉
    In any case I’ve recently learnt that here in Germany a mobile provider installed a service on pop-song recognition. You call their service number and play the song of which you would like to know the artist and title for a couple of seconds and they will send you an SMS within a minute with the according information. The service even works with songs 40 years and older!
    What still makes me wonder in this case is the fact that there seems to be an almost infinite space of opportunities in the SQL-universe to create demand for all sorts of (useful?) services …

  2. Niti – you describe a very scary proposition.
    While it stands to reason that someone who drops a photo of themselves on their web page, is probably doing so that they can be ‘pictured’ by a visitor to the site, I wonder how they’d feel if they were visited in ‘real-life’ by a visitor to their web site. Not that you were saying you had wanted to talk to the aforementioned blogger.
    But more importantly – taking a photo of someone in public. Uploading it to google (whowantstocataloguetheplanet) to be scanned and recognized and then getting that information back – seems to trample on a bunch of privacy concerns people might have. Google obviously keeping a copy of all photos and connecting it with GeoTags and so on. Soon being able to track you physically, and offering a “Where’s Damien” (or any person) service through google maps.
    But – to ‘but’ myself yet again, I have been in the same situation before, and have wondered, ‘since they published a photo of themselves – does that mean they wish to be publically recognized?’.
    I know that in the UK, which is overpopulated with CCTV cameras, they collect constant information of people as they walk about the UK. Many years ago, there was an article in the Cambridge local press on how the CCTV system had allowed the council (or some local authority) to ‘find’ and re-place many missing children from recognizing them on the cameras. Which though is great – is also alarming.
    I think I could go on and on and on….

  3. Niti Bhan says:

    Ralf, Damien,
    I wholly appreciate the ‘fear factor’ inherent in this concept. I, too, would hate have to have some guy come up to me at the coffee shop quoting bits from Perspective as he does so… having googled my pic etc. And my intent in throwing this idea out there was to articulate it – I’d been reading about Riya’s face recognition technology of late, Google’s increasing – your lovely and apt term – wantstocataloguetheplanet – and my memories of the conversations at Accelerating Change 2005 on mashups and sex offenders and home addresses – all of these random bits of info coalesced into this sudden realization that this scenario is not only possible, but highly probable in the near future.
    The question then becomes, what, if anything, can be done? As your rightly bring up, Damien, the CCTV cameras are everywhere in the UK, and much was done during London’s bombings using that information. There are the pros and cons of all of these ‘advances’. I mean, really, how far away are we from having ID chips implanted in a suitable corner of our bodies?
    Again, there are no easy answers to the issues these situations raise… though to take a moment to touch upon what Ralf says, someone somewhere will do it for the short term gain of money, without the long term ramifications of what it actually means. Remember the big hoo haa over mobile phone cameras allowing folks to take upskirt photographs? Has that stopped or has just the ruckus about it died down?
    I too could go on and on… perhaps we should. Perhaps it’s time we stopped and thought about where this race for the next big thing and next cool killer app is taking us.

  4. The ruckus died down is all. The upskirt issue still arrises.
    This reminds of the add campaign for Las Vegas a few years back. What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas. Feh. Not with all the cell phone cameras it doesn’t.
    Regarding privacy, one thing that I’ve proposed is the death of the psuedonym. It’s now quite possible to derive a fingerprint of a person’s writing style from a sample of their prose. Anonymous or psuedonymous blogs should be pretty easy to crack.
    Image recognition is disconcerting, but there are still more tells out there.
    In the United States it is possible to FOIA request voter information files, which have up to date names and mailing addresses. A strange contradiction, does registering to vote make you private information part of the public record?
    Of course, your vote is anonymous, and unrecorded, or rather, record but unattaced to your registration. Whether or not you voted at all is recorded, however. This is FOIA’ed on occasion to show a candidates incompetence for offices, if they’ve not been a regular voter, so it can be of value to the public.
    McVeigh killed all those people in Oaklahoma, and it boggled my mind that him an Nichols could have created such a horrible bomb on their credit cards (or whatever). At what point is the distructive power available to an individual going to beg the distruction of the concept of the individual?

  5. Niti Bhan says:

    Your post reminds me of Vernor Vinge’s seminal story “true names”… all we need to do is wait. I’ve personally never been a fan of ‘big brother’ but I accepted it as a fact of life in the US, after having biometrics recorded as part of the GC process. What does it actually mean I don’t know? The conversation continues…

  6. Biometrics are ugly. Indeed, I’m not surprised that other nations are reciprocating the indignity of fingerprinting upon arrival.
    I don’t believe that it is true intelligence.
    In any case, the next thought, about the end of the individual, is that we may as well learn how to keep our secrets public.

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