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Entries in Privacy (107)

Tuesday
Apr152014

The FBI's Facial Recognition System Will Collect Data on Everyone -- Even Non-Criminals

Image credit: Electronic Frontier Foundation

Privacy fans, get ready to feel your blood pressure rise.

The FBI is planning to roll out an extensive new facial recognition system that includes a database of photos to identify Americans, regardless of criminal historyaccording to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The system, called Next Generation Identification, or NGI, could soon include facial rec information on as many as 100 million Americans. The FBI already maintains a database of about 100 million people’s fingerprints, as well as many retina scans and palm prints, and personal information like name, address, age and race.

According to Business Insider, the database will grow quickly. By 2015, the system will be able to query up to 52 million photos: 46 million criminal images, such as mugshots; 4.3 million "civil images" from other sources; and 215,000 photos from the Repository for Individuals of Special Concern.

NGI is already being used in several states, and many more will soon join in. According to privacy advocates like the EFF, the FBI is clearly overreaching the bounds of privacy.

According to the EFF:

[T]he FBI only ensures that “the candidate will be returned in the top 50 candidates” 85 percent of the time “when the true candidate exists in the gallery.”

It is unclear what happens when the “true candidate” does not exist in the gallery—does NGI still return possible matches? Could those people then be subject to criminal investigation for no other reason than that a computer thought their face was mathematically similar to a suspect’s? This doesn’t seem to matter much to the FBI—the Bureau notes that because “this is an investigative search and caveats will be prevalent on the return detailing that the [non-FBI] agency is responsible for determining the identity of the subject, there should be NO legal issues.”

We're interested to learn how the facial rec portion of NGI will work in reality. In the meantime, how do you feel about the FBI collecting and querying your facial recognition data? In today's age of dwindling privacy, does news like this still get under your skin?

Tuesday
Aug272013

A Drone for Everyone?

These days, drones seem to be everywhere, delivering all kinds of things (like pizzas, beer, or bombs). But no one has manufactured a GPS-guided UAV that the average consumer would want to operate (and could afford to purchase). That is, until now.

3D Robotics is hoping their new drone will be simple enough for mass consumption, especially since it supports easy-to-use GPS controls through any computer, tablet or smartphone.

3D Robotics' 3DR Iris UAV costs just $729 and includes everything you need to actually utlize it: a trasmitter, battery pack, extra propellers and legs, and, of course, the unit itself. Not a bad price for a fully-functioning, ready-to-fly autonomous aerial vehicle. According to the company, the drone enables "point-and-click mission planning" using more than 100 configurable waypoints. These guide the device from take-off to landing, using a web-enabled device. It can even be easily outfitted with an on-board camera for your most important surveillance missions.

Of course, we wonder what "missions" the average consumer will get up to with a $700 drone in their hands. And yet, at the same time, we really don't want to know.

Friday
May172013

Congress Confronts Google with 'Glass' Privacy Concerns

This week, Google received a concerned letter from eight members of Congress who form a bipartisan “privacy caucus” and are worried about the privacy implications of Google Glass, the company's wearable augmented reality glasses.

So, what were they concerned about? Mainly, how the technology might infringe on the privacy of average people. Considering the fact that the current version enables users to secretly film or photograph people (yes, much like a smartphone), I can understand their concern. (In fact, one Glass developer is already claiming that he's created an app that lets Glass wearers snap pictures just by blinking their eye. Crazy!) And Glass' capabilities might grow to include facial recognition technology, which brings up a whole host of other questions.

In the meantime, Google has until June 14 to answer the following:

[W]e would like to know how Google plans to prevent Google Glass from unintentionally collecting data about the user/non-user without consent?

Would Google place limits on the technology and what type of information it can reveal about another person?

What proactive steps is Google taking to protect the privacy of non-users when Google Glass is in use?

When using Google Glass, is it true that this product would be able to use Facial Recognition Technology to unveil personal information about whomever and even some inanimate objects that the user is viewing?

Given Google Glass's sensory and processing capabilities, has Google considered making any additions or refinements to its privacy policy?

Check out the full letter here.

Wednesday
Jan302013

Drones to be Used to Monitor U.S. Highway Network

Drones are about to come home to roost - in a big way.

Sure, they'll still be used for missions overseas. But now they'll also be employed by the Federal Highway Administration to help human workers safeguard the United States' 4 million miles of highways, according to Discovery News. Their main tasks would probably be watching for major traffic jams and accidents, keeping an eye on aging bridges and roads, and surveying lands with laser mapping capabilities.

As Discovery reports:

 

"Drones could keep workers safer because they won't be going into traffic or hanging off a bridge," said Javier Irizarry, director of the CONECTech Lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "It would help with physical limitations of the human when doing this kind of work."

[...]

Irizarry gave the example of the spherical drones that mapped a huge alien base in the 2012 science fiction film "Prometheus" as an analogy for how today's larger drones could aid in above-ground laser mapping.

"We're going to look at the different divisions that has and see how they do things like surveying, safety monitoring or using traffic cameras," Irizarry told TechNewsDaily. "Maybe they could be using drone technology for a similar purpose."

Meanwhile, many states are competing to become flight-test regions for the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which is a step on the agency's path to opening U.S. civilian airspace to drones by 2015.

 

Tuesday
Aug142012

'Facedeals' App Scans Your Face, Checks You In Via Facebook

Check-In with Your Face from redpepper on Vimeo.

Ah, the Facebook check-in: modern society's way of showing off how hip or active or dedicated to our workouts we are. It seems like few businesses are taking advantage of check-ins to reward loyal customers, and most users check-in solely for the Facebook post.

But now, companies like Facedeals are re-thinking the entire check-in concept, using facial recognition technology. When a local business enrolls in the Facedeals program, facial recognition cameras are installed at its location. As customers visit, the cameras recognize their faces and automatically check them in. Meanwhile, their smartphone receives customized deals that are based on their user history.

Each customer has to “enroll” in Facedeal by downloading the app and going through the set-up process – which includes helping the app “learn” their face using recent Facebook photos.

Facedeals' cameras are stand-alone devices that use open-source technologies, including Raspberry Pi, Arduino, OpenCV and the Facebook Graph API.

The company is touting Facedeals as the ideal way to deliver customized trends to customers, while removing the confusion around accessing and using the correct deals on the right days. After all, each customer simply uses a deal while he or she is at the particular business.

Not surprisingly, though, privacy advocates are nervous about such technology. I say, as long as it's opt-in, let the Facebook check-in addicts have their way.