Thursday, June 9, 2011

Do you see what I see

Technology can be wonderful and it also can be a burden when it comes to intrusions in our lives, but trying to stop technology being introduced is a bit like swimming against the tide. Still you’d think that when introducing a new bit of technology the requirement would be to opt in, rather than opt out.
Facebook is at the centre of another privacy row after bringing in facial recognition technology to automatically identify users in pictures.
The world’s leading social network has begun rolling out new technology that automatically identifies and ‘tags’ people in photos uploaded to the website.
The feature has been expanded from a limited test run in the U.S. to be widened across all of the States and ‘most countries’, Facebook said on its official blog yesterday – and, by default, it’s turned on.
Facebook’s ‘Tag Suggestions’ feature is designed to speed up the process of labeling friends in photos posted on Facebook.
If a friend ‘tags’ you in one photo, the technology will automatically scan your face and then try and find matches among all their pictures.
Daniel Hamilton, director of privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: ‘Facebook users will rightly be alarmed to hear that their private information will be used in this way. This is yet another nail in the coffin for online privacy.
‘Websites like Facebook owe it to their users to respect their privacy, not to scan their photo albums with facial recognition software.’
As I don’t use Facebook I have no particular axe to grind here and the program itself does limit itself to only your friends and family online. The worry is of course that it will simply run in the background and build up a pictorial database of the people using Facebook and that somehow or other the information gathered will be hacked or used by “villains” including the “State” to track down people they want to find or monitor. Though I suspect a lot of the more savvy villains don’t have their pictures up on facebook, just the odd idiots who advertise their villainy
Still it is an example of the intrusions of privacy into our lives by information technology and a warning to those who actually take notice of such things that whether you’re aware of it or not a hell of a lot of information is held about you from your online wanderings, be it from spyware, to malware to legitimate businesses like Amazon or even social networks and if you think the state can’t get at the information if it decides to take an interest in you then you are deluding yourself.
What people need to be aware of is just how vulnerable they are, though I suspect a lot don’t give a damn, after all the message nothing to hide nothing to fear seems to be almost a mantra of various people out there when others raise alarms. The problems might start though when or if the state becomes so intrusive that people do feel they want to remain more anonymous and find they can’t.
Saying told you so is going to be cold comfort…
There are various ways to protect yourself, here is a decent start don’t use internet expolorer, use firefox with various security addons such as adblock plus and no script. But be aware, if your info is out there, it’s probably out there for good.
Be careful out there, you never know who is looking.

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