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No more “Who is that?” and “Is it really him?”

March 1, 2010

It seems that we are closely approaching a time in which we will be able to capture a photo of almost anyone who has one type or another of presence on the web and automatically identify his/her identity. With the proliferation of profiles on social networks such as facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace and the advancement in facial recognition algorithms, it will be possible to take a picture of anyone and mine for information about that person on social networks.

Such a “service” will not be limited for personal purposes but also for other security and intelligence related purposes. Say, you are in the airport and presenting a passport with your photo, the airport system can search your face in social networks and media in addition to traditional media sites on the web to find out if you are likely to be who you claim you are.

What used to be very private information even in the so called conservative societies is becoming more publicly available on the web. Soon, it will be the case that a person who does not have an online presence will be dimmed to be tagged as “backward”. We are in a dilemma now and need to redefine what information is private. Personal, cultural and contextual factors will still help us in defining our private information, but the main driver will be the emerging and dynamic global culture.

Social network privacy options are evolving and soon we might have an option on facebook or LinkedIn to avoid making our faces searchable but who will stop Google from extracting facial information from our images that are posted by others?

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