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Facial Recognition Technology Will Change Your Life

Any celebrity can tell you that fame comes at a price. If millions of people know who you are and recognize your facial features, you can attract an awful lot of unwanted attention.

You may be thinking: “So? I’m not a celebrity, so this has nothing to do with me.”

Don’t be so sure about this. With recent advances in facial recognition tools, you too may suffer this aspect of fame. Yes, when you’re out of your house, complete strangers could recognize you and track your every move.

Much of this you bring on yourself. Consider, for example, your use of social media. You post what you eat, what TV shows you watch, where you meet your friends for drinks, and even what your pets are doing. All this personal information you post on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram means anyone who cares to look can easily find you with a browser search.

9/11 terrorists caught testing airport security months before attacks
Mohammed Atta (right) and Abdulaziz Alomari at a security checkpoint in Portland International Airport
September 10, 2001

As if this doesn’t leave you exposed enough, small, easily concealable cameras are nearly everywhere. Add a few minor tweaks to facial recognition technology which, when it becomes just a little cheaper and more readily available, will enable nearly anyone to follow nearly anyone else in real time.

Your privacy, then, could soon become extinct. Everything you do away from home- and when you do it- will be accessible to the world at large..

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Tom Cruise as John Anderton in Minority Report sees a video ad that has been customized for him, and that calls him by name.

How did we get here?

Take a close look at the photo above. Here you see Mohammed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari, two of the most import conspirators in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, passing through an airport security checkpoint. The next day, Atta and Alomari would hijack Flight 111 from Boston and fly it into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. They and their co-conspirators would murder 2,977 people.

To counter-terrorism professionals, this is one of the most disturbing of all 9/11-related images. It disturbs not for what it displays, but what it implies.

The photo demonstrates that law enforcement and intelligence professionals had the information to prevent the 9/11 atrocities. Atta and Alomari had been testing airport security systems for months, and were on federal watch lists. But airport cops couldn’t recognize and stop the pair, lacking the necessary facial recognition tools and image database.

Law enforcement and intelligence adopt FR

Following the 9/11 atrocity, the U.S government strove to make up for lost time. Security experts wanted advanced facial recognition tools- and fast. Electronics firms were happy to meet the new demand, and continually refined their cameras and algorithms to capture ever greater detail, nuance, and accuracy. Software engineers developed machine learning apps that could sift through gigantic image databases almost instantaneously, eliding over irrelevant photos.

Now the technology is nearly perfect. Chinese police recently used facial recognition tools to find a suspect in a dense crowd of 50,000 concert attendees. The PRC also uses the tools to catch jaywalkers and send them instant fine notifications.

Amazon, one of the leaders in the field, sells a real-time facial recognition system, called REKOGNITION, to police departments all over the U.S.

Commercial uses multiply

September 12, 2017 is another signature date in the history of facial recognition. On that date, Apple unveiled the iPhone X. Previous face-scanning phones could be spoofed easily with masks or video. The iPhone X could not. It was the first phone with a truly safe face-scanning security portal.

The success of the iPhone X has opened up other possible uses:

  • Automated tagging of individuals on Facebook and Instagram
  • Recognition of, and automatic adjustment of seat and steering wheel placement for, each authorized driver of a car driven by several people
  • Flagging of frequent hotel guests immediately on their entry into the lobby, so they can bypass the usual desk check-in, and their room doors will open automatically as they approach
  • Streamlining of airport security checks… Your face will be your boarding pass.
  • More convenient shopping… At an FR-enabled retail store, you simply walk in, pick up the goods you want to buy, and walk out. You never have to produce cash or swipe a card. The store automatically deducts the price of your purchases from your credit card.
  • Highly personalized advertising… As you pass a billboard, a kiosk, or a mall sign, it will display ads tailored to your known interests, and may even call you by name.

Don’t call any of this far-fetched. Some of these applications have been implemented already. Others are on the way, and will reach consumer markets shortly.

Can facial recognition threaten your privacy or safety?

FR Technology brings many benefits, but there may be a few drawbacks in it. It could become a serious threat to your privacy, or even your career or your safety.

In a future post, we will explore the dangers of FR technology in detail.

For the best deals in internet service, contact Satellite Country. We can help.

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Does Your ‘Smart TV’ Know Too Much About You?

Is your TV invading your privacy? As ‘smart TV‘ becomes ever more popular, government and private parties try ever harder to exploit it to spy on viewers. If you;re not careful, your privacy could be at risk.

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Last year, a malware app called ‘Weeping Angel” targeted Samsung smart TV sets with a ‘fake off’ mode. To their owners, the TVs appeared to be off, but they were actually listening to users and recording their conversations.

With their embedded computers and microphones, these advanced TV sets are effective spy tools, so much so that the CIA has created and deployed means for transforming them into listening posts. And Wikileaks, Julian Assange’s platform for publication of stolen documents, has published detailed descriptions of viruses designed for hacking of such TV sets. MI5, Britain’s internal intelligence service, is even alleged to have helped  in designing some of the viruses.

Should you be worried about this?

Experts in cyber-security say most people don’t need to worry about hacking of their TV sets.

Most forms of malware are meant for mass surveillance. The tools designed for hacking TV sets, though, are too difficult to use to be of much value to the casual hacker. Hence, they are typically reserved for targeting individuals. Unless you suspect that you have attracted the attention of professional spies, then, you probably don’t need to worry that your TV set will be used against you.

How can you protect yourself?

If you’re still worried that your smart TV set or other devices could be used against you, a few precautions will help.

First, avoid buying electronic devices from manufacturers known to be casual about online security. And if you don’t really need networked features, avoid buying devices which include them.

Alas, protecting your privacy may require sacrificing certain conveniences. These may include voice activation, or even your TV’s web connection. You can usually find these features on your device’s ‘settings’ menu.

To be absolutely sure the device can’t spy on you, you’ll need to disconnect it from the electrical grid. If the device is battery-powered, you may need to remove the batteries.

Should you avoid ‘smart TV’ altogether?

Be realistic about this. No matter how careful you are, privacy protection in a smart TV will never be absolute. The methods we’ve mentioned here can keep your electronic devices from recording or transmitting your conversations, but your smart TV could still track your viewing history. Advertisers pay heavily for this data, and ability to collect it is built into the device’s software.

For this, the only known solution is not to buy a smart TV in the first place..


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If you spend much time online, your privacy is unsafe unless you take steps to protect it. What may be even more dismaying is that the rules governing online privacy are inconsistent. They inhibit only a few of the worst potential violators, leaving others free to vacuum up as much of your personal data as their technologies allow.

Last week, the Federal Communications Commission unwittingly underscored this inconsistency. Tom Wheeler, the FCC Chairman, announced a proposal for imposing strict new privacy rules on internet service providers.  From the consumer’s point of view, the proposal was a huge step forward, as ISPs would have to protect personal information, report breaches, and obtain consumer consent for personal data collection. Consumers would have to ‘opt in’ to allow collection of personal information. The new regulations would make it more difficult to use consumer data for targeted advertising.

Unfortunately, the new rules would exempt Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other browsers and social media. The American Civil Liberties Union expressed disappointment with the proposed new rules, and other consumer groups gave them only qualified endorsement. Some ISPs panned the proposal. AT&T, for example, called it discriminatory. The telecom giant objected that broadband providers would be held to stricter standards than other online companies.

Since the FCC won’t do much to protect you, you have to protect yourself when using social media. Consider using an ad blocker. Carefully review the privacy policy of any social website you visit.

You need to be vigilant to guard your privacy on any social medium. Some websites change privacy settings frequently, without notifying users. Facebook is especially notorious for this.

If you find that your privacy settings have been changed without your consent, change them back. Then send a complaint to the site administrators. This will not guarantee that the site’s policies will change, but it may help. If enough users complain, administrators may finally pay attention.

Above all else, remain alert. The best safeguard for your privacy is your own common sense.

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The internet has been a huge benefit for most of us. It opens up nearly the entire store of the world’s knowledge to us, and it enables easier and faster communication. It comes at a huge cost, though: loss of privacy.

Your browser tracks your website visits in order to help advertisers identify your interests, so they can more easily identify the pitches you will respond to. Your posts on social media, and tags by others about you on social media, can live on forever, despite your best efforts to suppress them.

Some of the more prominent browser operators and social media sites have attempted to limit damage to personal privacy. There is only so much they can do, though. Parties determined enough to find and publicize the information can usually do so.  When Google attempted to comply with the European Union’s 2014 “Right to Be Forgotten” law, the British Broadcasting Company aggregated and reposted the links to its own stories that the search engine had delisted. The State of California enacted an “eraser button” law for minor children. Under its terms, minors are guaranteed a means to erase their social media posts, but the law can’t keep others from disseminating the information in them.

Any technical fixes may reduce our vulnerability, but they don’t eliminate it. Last June, Google expunged links to revenge porn from its search engine, and deleted the information in them. This makes revenge porn much more difficult, but not impossible. YouTube’s “face-blurring” tool can prevent being tagged by facial recognition apps. This is especially useful for participants in public gatherings, such as political demonstrations. It won’t prevent publication on other social media sites, though. And a person whose face has been blurred can still be identified by clothing, posture, or other distinctive features.

It would be unrealistic to expect to be forgotten on the internet. The best we can hope for is obscurity. Once your information is online, whether posted by you or others, you can’t control who sees it. With some prudence and a few technical fixes, though, you can shield yourself from casual spies. Only the most motivated, persistent, and technically savvy can find what you’re hiding.

To some, this will be cold comfort. For most of us, though, it will be enough. Take a few simple steps to guard your online privacy, and you probably will be fine. Use complex passwords that will be difficult to break. Disable tracking cookies on your browser. Be careful about the websites you visit. Above all else, remember your mother’s advice: avoid doing anything in a public venue you don’t want the whole world to know about. Be especially wary where cameras are likely to be present.

If you have ever been online, your privacy won’t be absolute. With a few basic precautions, though, you should be able to avoid serious problems.