Tech Firms Roll Out Facial Recognition Apps for Consumers. What Are the Risks? • Children’s Health Defense


15-06-21 06:42:00,

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Over the past few years we’ve focused our discussion of face recognition on government use, and with good reason. It’s a powerful and dangerous surveillance tool, and in the last decade a huge number of law enforcement entities have begun using it.

But now we also need to pay attention to another emerging application of the technology that could have severe ramifications for the privacy and safety of private citizens: unrestricted personal use.

Recently an app called PimEyes has been garnering attention for its plans to offer consumer access to face recognition: Subscribers can run a photo of any individual they want through PimEyes’ systems, which will attempt to identify the person by returning every photo it can find online that might be a match.

Face matches across the web — from blogs, online photo albums, YouTube, even pornographic websites — will be accessible to anyone for just $30 a month.

PimEyes operates by scraping images from across the internet (often in violation of sites’ terms of use meant to protect users). This is much like Clearview AI — a face recognition company with a problematic history of misrepresentations on how its tech works — that is considering expanding to public consumer use as well.

Expanding use of face recognition and placing it in the hands of individuals everywhere presents several serious risks that policymakers need to grapple with before it becomes a widely accessible tool for abuse.

Stalking and harassment

The first major risk from consumer-focused face recognition is how it could be weaponized by stalkers and for harassment. This has already become a problem abroad with FindFace, an app created by a Russian company that works similarly to PimEyes. It’s not hard to imagine how a technology that turns your smartphone into a personal encyclopedia about anyone you see in a bar or coffee shop could be abused. For instance, individuals seeking to remain hidden from former partners who threatened or engaged in domestic violence could easily be put at risk.

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