Report: The NSA Collects Millions of Faces From Email, Texts, and More

Illustration for article titled Report: The NSA Collects Millions of Faces From Email, Texts, and More

Not only is the NSA interested in all your email and text messages, it would love to know exactly what you look like. The New York Times reports that the agency has been using new facial recognition software to tap into millions of images in emails, texts messages, video-conferences, and even social media to build a massive visual database.

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The NSA isn't the first agency to do this. According to the NYT, state and local law enforcement agencies are already scooping up images of faces from driver's license databases and Facebook among others. But the NSA has an edge because it gets to match all this data to its vast reserves of private communications it has already collected.

All of which means that this is now possible, says the NYT:

One N.S.A. PowerPoint presentation from 2011, for example, displays several photographs of an unidentified man — sometimes bearded, other times clean-shaven — in different settings, along with more than two dozen data points about him. These include whether he was on the Transportation Security Administration no-fly list, his passport and visa status, known associates or suspected terrorist ties, and comments made about him by informants to American intelligence agencies.

So if the idea that the NSA could read your emails was already disturbing, go ahead and add to that the fact that they can likely put a face to your name. And remember, again, that there's so much more we still don't know. Go check out the NYT for the full report for your dose of Sunday dread. [NYT]

DISCUSSION

vp9000
Dr.Nemmo and his time-travelling submarine

I feel so unfazed by this. I mean, I know it is bad, I know it can be wildly misused, and I know all the justifications for and against it.

The point is, it doesn't matter if I get upset or if I don't. Intelligence agencies will do the data collection and gathering the same way, even if we agree to it or not. That's the whole point of them. It can be illegal, or unconstitutional, but they will do it anyway because that's their job. They will always find the legal loophole that will allow them to do the data gathering and the executive will allow it to pass because it is necessary.

I don't claim it will be useful - that's a completely different thing. Intelligent terrorists will defeat the whole system by using carrier pigeons and cardboard masks. The best intelligence couldn't stop Elliot Rodger, even if he posted an announcement in youtube claiming that he would kill as many women as possible. And he was a kid with a gun and a personality disorder, only.

So, I'm not worried about the NSA. I prefer to keep my facebook settings to private not because of them, but because of the random idiot who wants to open a bank account with my personal data.