“Candid Camera” Used To Be All Fun And Games

I don’t watch a great deal of television, but I happened to catch a show called Person of Interest, and found it quite interesting in a futuristic sci-fi kind of way. The basic premise was that there are cameras everywhere, and software is used by the government to capture images of people from the cameras, enclosing their heads in a white square and then identifying persons of interest using facial-recognition technology.  Pretty far out there, that. Or so I thought.

Imagine my surprise to discover that it’s not only not “out there”, it’s here, and being marketed by NEC.

Not only is it identical to what was depicted in the television show, but Chicago just used that technology to obtain a first: they got a thief convicted in court using that facial-recognition software. It’s called NeoFace.

“CTA surveillance cameras captured photos of Martin in both of the robberies. His photo was compared to the department’s 4.5 million criminal booking shots and he ranked No. 1 among possible matches, officials said.”

NeoFace technology “assesses” and “matches” anyone caught on video.

And it’s by no means limited to relying on booking photos; any image data will do: your drivers’ license, your passport, that time you got “flashed” by a red-light camera…any or all of that, and more, can be assessed and  matched. It can be done after the fact, as in the Chicago robberies, or it can be done in real time, as depicted in the television series.

Of course, it’s not just city police using facial recognition technology. As evidenced in last week’s latest Snowden leak, the NSA is intercepting “millions of images per day”—including about 55,000 “facial recognition quality images”—which translate into ”tremendous untapped potential.”

Of course, since you’ve never sent an image of yourself across the internet, you’re probably in the clear, right? Right? Call me paranoid, but I long ago stuck a post-it note over the Crystal Eye webcam that’s built into my laptop.

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About maxredlines

experience: biology, zoology, psychology. authored/co-authored papers appearing in peer-reviewed scientific journals, as well as numerous professional proceedings. authored articles appearing in computer-oriented publications. featured in publications ranging from books to New Yorker magazine to television.
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