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Google recently acquired top facial recognition firm PittPatt. The company's applications can be used to scour the internet and identify you within 60 seconds.  (Source: PittPatt)

Thanks to the acquisition Google may soon be able to deploy real world targeted advertisements like those depicted in Minority Report. The advertisements could identify you, check your credit, and target ads at you based on your finances and interests.  (Source: Fox/Dreamworks)
Google and Carnegie Mellon University have created a system capable of alarming invasions of privacy

The application's name is PittPatt and it allows a complete stranger to find your identity -- your real identity -- in under 60 seconds.  Here's how it works.  A client code calls the PittPatt interface with a picture it's taken.  PittPatt jumps online and compares that picture to millions of images in Facebook and in Google Inc.'s (GOOG) image search, using advanced facial recognition technology.  And within 60 seconds, it can identify an individual.

The technology is more than a little creepy.  It seems straight out of futurist thriller flick The Minority Report, where Tom Cruise's character is assailed by advertising billboards that ID him by retinal scans.  In the movie Cruise solves this problem by replacing his eyeballs.  In real life it won't be that simple (hint: you might need facial modification).

PittPatt was a Carnegie Mellon University research project, which spun off into a company post 9/11.  At the time, U.S. intelligence was obsessed with using advanced facial recognition to identify terrorists.  So the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) poured millions into PittPatt.  

And it worked.  PittPatt's proprietary technology can spot faces even when people wear sunglasses, hats, or masks.  While that sounds like a bank robber's worst nightmare, it's also alarming news for law abiding folks.

Now the technology is in the hands of advertising giant Google.  Google purchased the company for an undisclosed price in July.

PittPatt announced on its website, "Joining Google is the next thrilling step in a journey that began with research at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute in the 1990s and continued with the launching of Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition (PittPatt) in 2004."

"We've worked hard to advance the research and technology in many important ways and have seen our technology come to life in some very interesting products. At Google, computer vision technology is already at the core of many existing products (such as Image Search, YouTube, Picasa, and Goggles), so it's a natural fit to join Google and bring the benefits of our research and technology to a wider audience. We will continue to tap the potential of computer vision in applications that range from simple photo organization to complex video and mobile applications."

Just two months prior it had been all denials and winks when Google was confronted with a CNN story which had a Google engineer on record stating that facial recognition technology was being developed to add to Google Goggles.  Stated Google at the time, "As we've said for more than a year, we will not add facial recognition to Goggles unless we have strong privacy protections in place. We're still working on them. We have nothing to announce at this time."

Alessandro Acquisti, Ph.D, a researcher and instructor still at Carnegie Mellon has designed an iPhone app that functions as a front end for PittPatt's facial recognition technology.  As mentioned, it can identify strangers Facebook profiles with startling accuracy.

And that's not all it can do.  It also incorporates searches of public databases that allows it to make a good guess at your social security number.  If it knows your date of birth (e.g. if your Facebook profile is public), there's a good chance it can ID your social security number.

Of course, the app relies on finding publicly available pictures of you online.  You can always put a picture of something other than your face as your profile image for social networks like Facebook and Google Plus.  But given the fact that many professional positions involve media exposure and/or online corporate bios, that may not be enough to protect your privacy.

Professor Acquisiti, showed his app off to NPR.  The news service writes:

Fred Cate [a law professor and privacy guru at Indiana University] says just imagine if you were a car dealer. You could hook Acquisti's app up to your surveillance cameras, identify potential customers, then check their incomes and credit ratings while they wandered around your lot.

Alessandro Acquisti has no plans to sell his app or make it public. In fact, the prospect of that horrifies him. But Cate thinks the commercial pressure to use technology like this will be intense. And some of the biggest companies in America agree. PittPatt was just bought by Google. But its technology only exists because of investments the government made in research in the wake of the attacks 10 years ago.

The app isn't publicly available.  And stalkers and frauds still have to resort to conventional methods like climbing in your window, sifting through your mail, or sending you phishing emails.

But if there's one take home message of the Google-PittPatt deal, it's the revelation that we're approaching an era where it will be incredibly difficult to protect one's privacy and finances.  When and if this technology hits the public it will shake both the social and financial foundations of society and no one can honestly say exactly what the end result will be.



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RE: I Am Not...
By EricMartello on 9/11/2011 7:43:18 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
"Its mere existence is unconstitutional". That's convincing. ;-) Without citing Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich, please explain where in the Constitution this is forbidden - and why it doesn't similarly forbid the FBI, CIA, DEA, and any other federal security division.


What's forbidden is that the Dept of Homeland Security also included legislature that was approved without any kind of votes from US citizens that allows for violations of Constitutional rights in the name if "security". Things like warrantless surveillance, bypassing due process, arresting people without cause, etc. The FBI, CIA and other agencies are not unconstitutional in themselves, but the overreaching powers they have been granted is where the problem manifests.

quote:
"Gun control is unconstitutional" - um, that's not what the Supreme Court has ruled, and they're the authorities on what's constitutional. You're not even trying to not sound like an extremist.


I'm not an extremist, but the 2nd amendment is quite clear in what it states. The supreme court is not an authority; the citizens of the USA are the authority and law-abiding citizens do have a right to possess firearms for protection and self-defense. I am happy to see that a couple politicians are pushing a reciprocity act that would allow people with concealed carry licenses to cross state lines legally with their firearms.

quote:
Sigh... health care is not unconstitutional either, and you ARE a Ron Paul Tea Party Brigade member; I was hoping I was off-base. I'm sure auto insurance is unconstitutional too, right? Are you also one of those "soverign citizen" types who think you don't need a license to drive either?


Obamacare in a nutshell states that all US citizens must pay for health insurance. Who said anything about healthcare? Obamacare does not address the fundamental issue as to why people do not have health insurance - it's too fckin expensive! Healthcare in the USA, while maybe higher than some other countries, is priced well beyond what a legitimate market would support. It is definitely unconstitutional to force people to purchase health insurance, and furthermore it will not solve the problem of affordability for many people who currently do not have health insurance.

quote:
"Facial recognition is unconstitutional" - why don't you just say that anything you don't like is unconstitutional?


Is that what I said? Pretty sure it's not. I said that this implementation (i.e. the contents of this news article) is unconstitutional because it IS sponsored by the government and it is a violation of the 4th amendment. It's not a matter of whether or not I like something.

quote:
When Michelle Bachmann wins a straw poll, that's a sign the problem isn't government anymore... it's an appallingly ignorant citizenship who'll believe anything, particularly if it's something bad about some other group of their fellow countrymen.


No secret that the general population of the USA are total morons who lack basic cognitive abilities...but they alone are not the problem. The government is just too big and bloated...it needs to be scaled down and streamlined.


RE: I Am Not...
By cjohnson2136 on 9/12/2011 1:30:09 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I'm not an extremist, but the 2nd amendment is quite clear in what it states. The supreme court is not an authority; the citizens of the USA are the authority and law-abiding citizens do have a right to possess firearms for protection and self-defense. I am happy to see that a couple politicians are pushing a reciprocity act that would allow people with concealed carry licenses to cross state lines legally with their firearms.


The 2nd Amendment states, "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

If you are not a well regulated militia then no you do not have the right to bear arms. If you want to be called on by your governor to fight when called then you would be a militia but a person that holds guns and will not use them for the gov't is not a militia and hence does not have the right to bear arms.


RE: I Am Not...
By EricMartello on 9/13/2011 1:18:54 AM , Rating: 2
Oh look, cjohnson single-handedly diffused all debates about the true intention of the second amendment........not really.

"the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed"

Read it carefully brah. It says "the right of the People" not the right of the militia; it's quite clear that it was intended to protect the people from the government by making it illegal for the government to disarm them. Militias are an entirely separate issue also protected by the 2nd amendment.

quote:
How is that unconstitutional. To me it sounds like a tax which last I checked the gov't was within its rights to tax it's citizens


To you it sounds like a tax, but you're a moron so it doesn't matter what it sounds like to you. A tax is by definition a forced fee that benefits the "state". Obamacare is not a tax; it's forcing people to purchase health insurance from private companies. Weren't you the idiot who tried to misstate "healthcare" as being "health insurance"? Oh yeah, that was you.

quote:
Also wrong again. It is only unconstitutional if someones privacy is violated by gov't. Just because there is a chance it could be violated does not mean anything. If police use it within the laws that are set which includes getting a search warrant or following the laws of a reasonable search then no 4th amendment violation is there.


Wrong? Me? Never. The fact that you can legally take pictures of anyone in a public place would easily open the door for this technology to be abused by government/law enforcement. The scans and searches imposed by the TSA for people wanting to fly are also a violation of the 4th amendment. If you think otherwise, you're probably canadian or british...and a moron.


RE: I Am Not...
By cjohnson2136 on 9/13/2011 10:18:35 AM , Rating: 2
Really you have to resort to name calling?

quote:
Wrong? Me? Never. The fact that you can legally take pictures of anyone in a public place would easily open the door for this technology to be abused by government/law enforcement. The scans and searches imposed by the TSA for people wanting to fly are also a violation of the 4th amendment.


Just because the technology has the potential for abuse does not mean it is unconstitutional. GPS is technology that can track your location is it unconstitutional to have it in your cell phone when there is a chance for abuse from the police. Technology is also going to evolve and as it evolves there will always be a chance for abuse. Does that mean the technology is unconstitutional? That would be ridiculous to assume any new technology with a chance of abuse from the government should not be made.

As for the other two points I don't really care since it is off the point of the article.


RE: I Am Not...
By EricMartello on 9/15/2011 2:04:17 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Really you have to resort to name calling?


It's not name-calling; it's fact-stating.

quote:
Just because the technology has the potential for abuse does not mean it is unconstitutional. GPS is technology that can track your location is it unconstitutional to have it in your cell phone when there is a chance for abuse from the police. Technology is also going to evolve and as it evolves there will always be a chance for abuse. Does that mean the technology is unconstitutional? That would be ridiculous to assume any new technology with a chance of abuse from the government should not be made.


Fail example since the GPS technology in cellphones has already been exploited illegally thanks to the DHS. Once again, you seem to have an issue properly identifying points here. The GPS technology itself is not unconstitutional; the exploitation of that that tech by law enforcement/government agencies is. Why don't you stop responding and give that concept a few weeks to sink in.

quote:
As for the other two points I don't really care since it is off the point of the article.


LOL all of your responses have been off topic and off point for that matter.


RE: I Am Not...
By cjohnson2136 on 9/12/2011 1:32:17 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Obamacare in a nutshell states that all US citizens must pay for health insurance. Who said anything about healthcare? Obamacare does not address the fundamental issue as to why people do not have health insurance - it's too fckin expensive! Healthcare in the USA, while maybe higher than some other countries, is priced well beyond what a legitimate market would support. It is definitely unconstitutional to force people to purchase health insurance, and furthermore it will not solve the problem of affordability for many people who currently do not have health insurance.


How is that unconstitutional. To me it sounds like a tax which last I checked the gov't was within its rights to tax it's citizens


RE: I Am Not...
By garagetinkerer on 9/14/2011 10:11:06 AM , Rating: 2
Tax is paid to the government for what it is supposed to do. Which in this case is violating an individual's privacy some more. When you speak of health insurance, the money is going to the corporations and hence is not a tax. I say stop this corporate socialism. It is funny how they speak of "capitalism" when they cut pay/ jobs. As soon as the companies need/ want money, all "free market" concepts are forgotten and fast.


RE: I Am Not...
By cjohnson2136 on 9/12/2011 1:34:30 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Is that what I said? Pretty sure it's not. I said that this implementation (i.e. the contents of this news article) is unconstitutional because it IS sponsored by the government and it is a violation of the 4th amendment. It's not a matter of whether or not I like something.


Also wrong again. It is only unconstitutional if someones privacy is violated by gov't. Just because there is a chance it could be violated does not mean anything. If police use it within the laws that are set which includes getting a search warrant or following the laws of a reasonable search then no 4th amendment violation is there.


"Game reviewers fought each other to write the most glowing coverage possible for the powerhouse Sony, MS systems. Reviewers flipped coins to see who would review the Nintendo Wii. The losers got stuck with the job." -- Andy Marken














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