Getting a Facial

I know it doesn’t seem true, but data is everything. Oh, sure, we see plenty of examples of apparent professionals who punch the fire alarm on a hunch, but advertisers want to measure everything. If you don’t know how many people see your ad, if you don’t know when they see your ad, if you don’t know who sees your ad, you aren’t selling. I’m talking names and addresses, people.

Billboards seem unlikely data gatherers, eh?

But wait! Imagine a billboard with a camera that can “look back” at passers-by and gather details about gender, age, expression, and time-span of the contact. “We’re not storing actual images of the peeps we see,” saith the billboard owners, “so privacy is not a problem.”

Horse puckey.

Facial recognition programs already use surveillance cameras in public places to store, sort, and process actual images of the passers-by and to compare those images to the stored images of known bad guys.

That’s pretty cool from a Homeland Security standpoint.

But wait.

Those who would give up an essential liberty for
temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.

–Benjamin Franklin


A billboard camera that photographs passers-by and a facial recognition program that can tap the databases of every state DMV. Driver’s licenses have photos now; the issuing states require you to update your photo periodically so they can actually identify you. The technology exists now. All it takes is a few lines of code to mix and match.

“Oh, that would never happen,” you say. “We have too many safeguards.” Betcha you think the FBI needs a warrant to rummage around in your phone, email, financial, and library stuff, too.

Can you spell G-e-o-r-g-e O-r-w-e-l-l meets D-a-v-i-d O-g-i-l-v-y?

So. How long will it be before both the Feds and Proctor & Gamble have not only your Social Security number but also your last year’s income tax return?

4 thoughts on “Getting a Facial

  1. My Driver’s License was issued in 1995 and the state was pleased to announce, back then, a new program to save money. Previously, you had to renew every few years and they had to print up new cards. With the new program, you renew every 24 years or so.

    Then, just a week or so ago, I got a stern reprimand in the mail — DMV’s records indicate that my photo hasn’t been updated in 12 years and the Law requires an update! Get me to a DMV immediately!

    Should I shave my ‘stache, you think?

  2. > Should I shave my ’stache, you think

    I dunno. It makes a fine disguise, particularly if you can dye your beard and wear big, heart-shaped shades. Since DMV might protest the shades (that mucks up facial recognition), I recommend crossing just one eye (the left one).

  3. Scary. On an internal corporate blog I expressed my concern after an article describing how Google might use its clouds of computers to make all online digital images searchable by face / person. Once that technology works, the mashups people will come up with make my skin crawl. Naturally, other commenters pooh-poohed my worries. My view, most people seem either to lack imagination, or to truly believe that if you do nothing wrong you have nothing to fear. But what’s “wrong” got to do with it? I really don’t need anyone to do a search on amateur or security camera images and find me at a nude beach, or a gay-marriage rally (pro or con), or a gun show, or two blocks down from a massage parlor when I’m supposed to be at work, etc.

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