Privacy is more and more a thing of the past:
In one experiment, Acquisti’s team identified individuals on a popular online dating site where members protect their privacy through pseudonyms. In a second experiment, they identified students walking on campus — based on their profile photos on Facebook. In a third experiment, the research team predicted personal interests and, in some cases, even the Social Security numbers of the students, beginning with only a photo of their faces.
Carnegie Mellon researchers also built a smartphone application to demonstrate the ability of making the same sensitive inferences in real-time. In an example of “augmented reality,” the application uses offline and online data to overlay personal and private information over the target’s face on the device’s screen.
“The seamless merging of online and offline data that face recognition and social media make possible raises the issue of what privacy will mean in an augmented reality world,” Acquisti said.
Cloud computing will continue to improve performance times at cheaper prices, and online people-tagging and face recognition software will continue to provide more means of identification.
“Ultimately, all this access is going to force us to reconsider our notions of privacy,” Acquisti said. “It may also affect how we interact with each other. Through natural evolution, human beings have evolved mechanisms to assign and manage trust in face-to-face interactions. Will we rely on our instincts or on our devices, when mobile phones can predict personal and sensitive information about a person?”
This technology has profound implications for both good and evil. Surveillance cameras can scan our sidewalks for wanted criminals as well as political dissidents. And the app for your cell phone can do a background check on your daughter’s date or identify a TSA agent in line at the grocery store.
I worry about this but don’t have any good answers. It seems that about the best you can hope for is that you have a twin* such that you can raise reasonable doubt in those situations where it really matters.