Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Name-tagged photo galleries - what a nice tool for the (secret) police.

Google Picasa recently launched facial recognition for photos. The software works OK and with a decent effort you can "name-tag" all your photos. The name-tags give you nice organizing and sharing possibilities. So quite an ingenious option! The same kind of technology is available for Apple iPhoto and with add-ons also for Flickr. Probably this feature will soon become a must for all bigger photo galleries.

Now lets think about it a bit. A name-, geo- and date-tagged photo (or a movie) in a gallery is an enormous source of information: who knows who, who has been where and when did this happen. If one would gain access to the Google's, Apple's and Flickr databases and all the tagged galleries one could build up information banks that are unprecedented. And if you happen to be amongst the secret police then why stop there. Next connect the photo databases with information from social networks, public internet and the traditional police, bank, credit-card and other databases. So with a simple "select..." query you might get more information about a person than he himself knows. Like what are his 1970's classmates doing at present or what really happened at the party his teenage daughter attended last Friday.

Most surely the amount of geo- and name-tagged photos is growing exponentially with camera mobile phones becoming cheaper the gallery services becoming better. If you have small children and have visited their kindergarten parties you probably have noticed that practically every parent is taking (name-, geo- and date-tagged) photos and making (name-, geo- and date-tagged movies). The lives of our children will be really well documented.

Google's Privacy Policy sais: "We do not sell, rent or otherwise share your personal information with any third parties except in the limited circumstances described in the Google Privacy Policy, such as when we believe we are required to do so by law." Now surely the police and especially all the anti-terrorist units can require Google to do so by law.

A rather nasty side-effect is that besides "the good" also "the bad" will sooner or later gain access to the data. Through hacking or ... just making offers that one cannot refuse to the developers, testers, sysadmins, back-up administrators working for the web-galleries. The only serious obstacle at the moment protecting the data is the share amount of it.

So what are the conclusions and uses of this new development:
- Firstly, live decently. Be aware that everything you do is essentially public information.
- Secondly, this technology could be used more at spots of crisis. For example, why not build a free and easy to use mobile-gallery service for Pakistan and Afganistan. One might even share out GPS enabled mobile phones for free. It seems that the Taleban members like to take photos and show off their arms. Why not let these photos be automatically geo-, date- and name-tagged. :-)
- Thirdly, learn IT! Integration of IT systems and query building will become more and more important for the police and military each day. At least for the next ten years this will create many IT jobs.

1 comment:

Toomas Mölder said...

HP webcam only tracks white people? http://www.neowin.net/news/main/09/12/21/hp-webcam-only-tracks-white-people