You Are The Product – Part 23

Big Brother...I’ve written before (Read Our Lips: You Are The Product) about how our interaction online with various services, especially free ones, come with either explicit or implicit understandings around personal data and how that is used in lieu of monetary payment.

Online “you are the product”, I like to say.

Turns out, you don’t have to be online any more to “be the product”.

I read this report today from Michael Casey of CBS News: Facial Recognition Software is Scanning You Where You Least Expect It

It is quite eye-opening to consider how ubiquitous and cheap digital cameras have become, and thus the widespread use of them in public and semi-public places such as our city streets, building lobbies, and entrances/exits to retail stores.

In the article, Michael covers some of the implications that go beyond what folks like myself may have considered obvious. Security use cases certainly make the most sense, and are a reasonably age-old use case of video surveillance in public and private spaces.

However, with facial recognition software effectiveness now accelerating in capability, new use cases become readily available.

Churches have versions of software that survey faces of those in attendance – now your pastor knows if you’ve been honest or not about showing up!

Malls and retail shopping sites are scanning faces and aggregating results to understand demographics such as age, gender, and ethnicity.

Revelations like this are always surprising and potentially unnerving, especially when they come without notice of what is happening, understanding of the implications, and choices as to whether you’d like to participate.

As I’ve also explored a bit – “What’s The Harm?” is always a good question to ask.  If the in store advertisements are digital and updated in near-real time to reflect the likely interests of those currently wandering about the store – is that a bad thing?  Spooky, creepy, or just misunderstood, maybe – harmful?  I’m not certain.

What do you think?  Check out Michael’s story and see if it helps you decide.


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