Monday, August 26, 2013

Sixty Minutes segment -- say goodbye to anonymity

Scott McNealy (1999), then Sun Microsystems CEO: "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.”

Eric Schmidt (2009), then Google CEO: “If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

CBS Sixty Minutes (8/25/2013): "Say goodbye to anonymity."

With all the security flap surrounding Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, I posted a note on face recognition. I have updated that post several times, and the latest update seems worth an independent blog post:

Last night CBS Sixty Minutes broadcasted this segment on face recognition.

The video and a transcript are online and the segment tag line, "say goodbye to anonymity," reveals the editorial slant.

Think of all the people you have identified and who have identified you in Facebook or Google Plus photographs. They are a database against which to run a facial recognition algorithm and once they have recognized a face, they can match it to the profile of interests, demographic data, likes and dislikes of that person.

Sixty Minutes emphasized commercial applications -- receiving a discount coupon for your favorite beverage seconds after you walk into a restaurant or seeing personalized ads at the mall.

They also mentioned the database of photographs of criminals the FBI is ammassing. By next year they expect to be able to search by face as well as fingerprint and DNA.

The Web site includes a video segment titled "Facebook and the FBI," which was not broadcast.

The FBI representative says all the right things, but these days government credibility is not all that high. As Bruce Schneier points out in this Atlantic Monthly article, the government is relying on industry to do its surveillance.

Does any of this worry you? How long until Google or Facebook gets a court order demanding to know where you were yesterday afternoon?

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