Well, this is scary. Researchers have created software that uses public information to ID basically anybody just walking down the street. Stalkers, rejoice. Everyone else, time to find a comfortable mask that you'll never take off.
Using facial recognition software and databases made of publicly accessible photos (profile photos from Facebook and LinkedIn that don't even require logging in to view, for example), researchers from Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University set up on a busy college campus and snapped pictures of willing passers by. They were able to positively identify a 31 percent of these strangers within seconds. They used the same database of photos and were able to cross-reference those faces with faces in other databases—namely dating sites (where users use pseudonyms to protect their privacy). It worked again. In fact, they were able to positively identify 10 percent of the dating site's members.
In other words, you could be walking down the street or sitting in a bar, and some creep could surreptitiously take your picture, and with that info alone, he/she could find out your name, where you work, whether you're single, and a whole lot more. The scary thing is that the results are not coming through one service that can be shut down, it's aggregated from your public information. They have a proof of concept working in a mobile device, and while the tech is somewhat nascent right now, it is rapidly improving, which means it could rapidly become more dangerous. After all, you can change your name and ID numbers, but changing your face—which is publicly viewable every time you go outside and is a unique identifier—is much, much harder.
A short FAQ of the study's findings can be found here, and it makes for some interesting, if unsettling, reading. [Study via Newser]
Image credit: Shutterstock/Andre Blais
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