Now You See Me!

My phone keeps pinging me a message that my photos on my iCloud account cannot be accessed. Well that’s just fine, as I don’t want them to be accessed. And anyway, I don’t keep any photos in the cloud.

I remember years ago, when a certain smartphone producer announced that their phones would be able to “recognise” faces when taking photos. We were told that this would be help us to take better pictures and it would eliminate blurry images, not to mention the dreaded red-eye. On the whole, most people accepted this and thought it was a good idea. I was left scratching my head. Why would I want my phone to recognise faces, when I was perfectly able to achieve this task for myself. After all, I have been doing this all my life. My brain is programmed to recognise human faces and most importantly, I have one myself!

Then came face recognition software. Now, instead of coming under the close scrutiny of a border guard at the airport, we were asked instead to stare into a small camera. We would wait until some unknown entity decided whether we were a renowned international terrorist, or just an everyday citizen jetting off for a two-week holiday in Magaluf. I must be the former, as I’ve never even considered going to Magaluf!

Next, we learn that face recognition software has progressed to such an extent, that they are planning to roll it out in the retail industry. Not only will it be able to identify potential shoplifters, it will be able to recognise repeat shoppers and thereby predict that persons shopping habits and preferences. We are also told that this software will recognise us to such an accurate degree, it will be able to greet us personally on entering the shop. “Good morning Mr Smith and how are you toady?” Sound like some scary science-fiction movie. It does to me!

I recently had my profile locked on a well known social media site, because I refused to upload a photo of myself. Not a great problem, as I rarely use the site anyway. I did however contact them to say that I valued my privacy and I didn’t want “strangers” seeing who I was. They replied, reassuring me that it was fine, the photo wouldn’t be visible to all and sundry and it was only for their own security profile. I did point out that they were the very sort of stranger that I didn’t want seeing my picture. They failed to respond and my profile remains locked. Oh, well!

My point? I don’t want my image stored on various databases for other people to make assumptions and decisions about what I may, or may not do. Leaving aside the conspiracy theories that these images are being stored for nefarious reasons, it is conceivable that someone at some point could misuse people’s photographs. As accurate as they claim the software to be, it still can’t identify between twins. It can’t take into account someone’s face being partially blocked by a hat or a scarf and it still has problems with fixing points on a moving image. You also have to consider that there are only a certain number of face “types” and you can start to appreciate how easy it will be for mistakes to be made.

So, are we being watched? Probably. Is someone gathering as many images on everyone as possible? Quite possibly. Is it for the good of the population as a whole? Of course it’s not! No. As far as I’m concerned, the word-wide-web will just have to get along without any photos of yours truly. There is not a single image of me on the internet anywhere and that is how I intend it to remain. Anyway, no one would want to look at my photo. It would scare small children and curdle milk at twenty paces!

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