Facial Recognition – History and Privacy

Have you been hearing more about Facial Recognition technology?  I have, especially with the new iPhone coming out, I’ve been wondering how well it works and what the implications to our privacy are.  But first, a little history.

History of Facial Recognition:

The first facial recognition programs were developed in the 1960’s.  The scientist’s names were Woody Bledsoe, Helen Chan Wolf, and Charles Bisson.  (There are two surprises to me here.  First that scientists were working on this more than a half century ago, and secondly that one of the scientists – in the 1960’s! – was a woman.)  “Their programs required the administrator to locate features such as the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth on the photograph. It then calculated distances and ratios to a common reference point which was then compared to reference data.”

The technology continued to advance decade by decade until it was taken over by one of the US Defense agencies in 1993.  They named the project FERET or Face Recognition Technology Evaluation.  In 2006, “The Face Recognition Grand Challenge (FRGC) evaluated the latest face recognition algorithms available. High-resolution face images, 3D face scans, and iris images were used in the tests. … Some of the algorithms were able to outperform human participants in recognizing faces and could uniquely identify identical twins.”

More Recent Developments:

A big failure occurred in 2002.  Facial recognition was used to scan the crowds at Super Bowl 35 for known criminals.  Consequently, they found that the technology was not quite ready yet.  In the 15 years since then, the technology has been fine-tuned, and it has been accepted more by US consumers. Then, in 2010, Facebook began using the technology on uploaded photos.  Then in 2014, Law Enforcement Agencies began to adopt facial recognition in the Automated Regional Justice Information System (ARJIS). While ARJIS is currently only used in Southern California, it will probably be expanded in the future.Facial Recognition

Drawbacks:

The biggest problem with Facial Recognition software is its racial bias.  Software developed by Japanese and Chinese companies recognize Asian faces with a great degree of accuracy, but other races to a lesser degree.  European and US companies recognize Caucasian faces very accurately, but no so much blacks and other “non-white” faces.

Today:

Facial Recognition is being used today to identify a traveler in lieu of a boarding pass or passport.  In addition, a fast food restaurant in China is using “Smile to Pay”, a facial recognition software developed by ANT Financial to pay their bill. In a few months, Apple will release the iPhone x which uses your face, instead of your fingerprint, to unlock your phone.

Privacy Implications:

As I said to a friend recently, there is no privacy.  And we’ve helped with that.  As a result of uploading photos to social media, getting passports, and just appearing in public, we’ve provided plenty of photos of our face for anyone that wants them.  A recent article in the Economist stated that Facebook “could obtain pictures of visitors to a car showroom say, and later use facial recognition to serve them ads for cars.” The article also stated that “photographs of half of America’s adult population are stored in databases that can be used by the FBI.”

And the software is not just recognizing faces, in some cases it also has the ability to guess at a person’s sexuality and intelligence.  The Economist goes on to say that facial recognition can be used to enable “firms to filter all job applications for ethnicity and signs of intelligence and sexuality”.  As a result, corporations can deny jobs to qualified applicants based entirely on what their software learns from their face.

Research:

Since I had to do some research, here are some of the articles I used:

Was this explanation of Facial Recognition interesting?  Please forward to a friend!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fifteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission if you sign up.)

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Online and Facebook Privacy – Is It Possible?

Lately Chris has been forwarding articles to me about online and Facebook privacy.   Now, if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, I know you know that I don’t think anything is private on the internet.  These articles seem to solidify my opinion.  The story that piqued my interest early this week was this one in Gizmodo.  In this case you had people who had to keep a part of their identity secret, so they have set up a separate online identity.  So they have a different emails, phone numbers, social media, etc., which may be connected to each other, but are not in any way connected to their “real” identity.  In this case, the people are sex workers, but they could just as easily be someone who was in an abusive relationship or another situation that requires real-life, general online, and specifically, Facebook privacy.

Here are some excerpts from that article:facebook privacy

“Her “real identity”—the public one, who lives in California, uses an academic email address, and posts about politics—joined Facebook in 2011. Her sex-work identity is not on the social network at all; for it, she uses a different email address, a different phone number, and a different name. Yet earlier this year, looking at Facebook’s “People You May Know” recommendations, Leila (a name I’m using using in place of either of the names she uses) was shocked to see some of her regular sex-work clients.

“Despite the fact that she’d only given Facebook information from her vanilla identity, the company had somehow discerned her real-world connection to these people—and, even more horrifyingly, her account was potentially being presented to them as a friend suggestion too, outing her regular identity to them.”

and:

“Darling used to have a second, private account under her legal name for connecting with people she knew in her normal, vanilla life, but it was getting recommended to her fans, revealing her “real” identity to them. Some of them began harassing her and trying to track down her family.

“We’re living in an age where you can weaponize personal information against people,” Darling said. She’s not sure how Facebook linked her porn identity to her legal identity, but it meant one had to go. She deleted her private account a few years ago, leaving only her public, porn one.”

You might think that, as people who have chosen an alternative career and life style, that they somehow “deserve” to be outed.  But imagine if you had an ex-spouse who had been stalking you and a restraining order wasn’t working.

Facebook Privacy How To:

Here are some suggestions if you need to keep your identity secret, but still want to use Facebook:

  • Set your posts to “Friends Only”, and don’t tag anyone in your status.  (When you tag other people, then their friends can see your post as well.)
  • Don’t allow other people to post on your page, and, if they tag you in a post, make sure you approve (or not) it before it posts.
  • Make sure any personal information stays private. Don’t allow Facebook to share your birthday, phone number, email, etc. –
  • You should also lock down your Online Facebook Privacy Settings
  • Finally, all of these options are available to you under Facebook Settings.

Other Strategies:

  • Because people can recognize your face, make sure there are no photos of you on your account.  Use a beautiful photo or a meme or cartoon to represent your profile picture.
  • After a post has been up for a week or so, consider changing the privacy level to “only me”.  You’ll keep a historical record of what you posted and who commented, but it will be invisible to everyone else.

Are there other strategies you’re using to manage your Facebook privacy?  Please share those in the comments!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fifteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission if you check it out.)

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Is the Kaspersky Anti-virus safe?

We’ve been getting a lot of questions recently about Kaspersky.  Is it safe? Why has the US government banned it?  Should I keep on using it?

In doing a little bit of research to answer these questions, I haven’t been able to find a definitive answer.  Yes, the US government has taken the software off of their list of recommended software.  And, yes, Best Buy has removed the product from their physical (and virtual) shelves.  But is there any logic behind the removal other than general suspicion about Russia in general?kaspersky Labs

According to this article in Bloomberg: “While the U.S. government hasn’t disclosed any evidence of the ties, internal company emails obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek show that Kaspersky Lab has maintained a much closer working relationship with Russia’s main intelligence agency, the FSB, than it has publicly admitted. It has developed security technology at the spy agency’s behest and worked on joint projects the CEO knew would be embarrassing if made public.”

The NY Times reported that:  “The F.B.I. has also been investigating whether Kaspersky software, including its well-regarded antivirus programs, contain back doors that could allow Russian intelligence access into computers on which it is running. The company denies the allegations.   The officials, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because the inquiries are classified, would not provide details of the information they have collected on Kaspersky.”

Kaspersky has responded by saying: “Regardless of how the facts are misconstrued to fit in with a hypothetical, false theory, Kaspersky Lab, and its executives, do not have inappropriate ties with any government. The company does regularly work with governments and law enforcement agencies around the world with the sole purpose of fighting cybercrime.”

This seems to be a reasonable response from an international company.

PC Magazine thinks this is all a bunch of hogwash and reached out to one of it’s experts, Graham Cluley, for his opinion.

“I’ve seen no evidence of Kaspersky having any inappropriate interaction with the Russian government,” said Cluley, “and no one seems to have presented any evidence of its software putting its US customers at risk. What I have seen are non-Russian security companies taking advantage of the current smear campaign against Kaspersky to promote their own solutions, which I find rather distasteful.”

If you’re interested, here are some additional articles on the subject:

  • BBC – 9/14/2017 – http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41262049
  • Moscow Times – 7/12/2017 – https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/kaspersky-lab-denies-claims-of-cooperation-with-Russian-spy-agency-58368
  • Slate – 7/11/2017 – http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2017/07/11/how_worried_should_we_really_be_about_security_firm_kaspersky_lab_s_ties.html
  • The Hill – 7/2/2017 – http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/340420-kaspersky-willing-to-turn-over-source-code-to-us-government

By the way, I did ask Chris for his opinion about Kaspersky.  He said that it is a “perfectly good anti-virus, but we don’t recommend it.  It isn’t designed in an efficient manner and tends to put a drag on the overall operational performance of the machine.”

The anti-virus we do recommend is ESET’s NOD32.

Was this explanation helpful to you? Please forward to a friend!

Chris Eddy of Geek For Hire, Inc. has been providing computer service to families and small businesses with Mac’s and PC’s for the past fifteen years. His company is highly rated by both the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and by Angie’s List. You can find more on our website, or give us a call 303-618-0154. Geek For Hire, Inc. provides onsite service (Tier 3) to the Denver / Boulder / Front Range area as well as remote service throughout North America.

We’ve been using Amazon Prime for the past few years.  We like the free 2-3 day shipping and the online streaming. I haven’t tried the Kindle lending library yet.  I’ll try that next!   Prime is normally $99/year, but you can try it for 30 day for free by clicking on this link: Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, we’ll get a small commission if you sign up.)

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