Came across a very interesting article from Popular Science about facial recognition software that is enabling a whole new level of police work. Apparently, the FBI is going to be rolling out a massive new mug-shot database which, when combined with the new technology allows for an amazing success rate with regard to identifying potential criminals. This can be supplemented by the public's ongoing fascination with posting millions of images online, creating a large database of information which most of us probably give little though to,
"Social media has precisely what facial recognition needs: billions of high-quality, camera-facing head shots, many of them tied directly to identities."
A header in the article gave this little snippet of info about how this is potentially playing out in terms of consumer culture
"When a shopper enters Reebok’s flagship store in New York City, a face-detection system analyzes 10 to 20 frames per second to build a profile of the potential customer. The algorithms can determine a shopper’s gender and age range as well as behavioral and emotional cues, such as interest in a given display (it tracks glances and the amount of time spent standing in one place). Reebok installed the system, called Cara, in May 2013; other companies are following suit. Tesco recently unveiled a technology in the U.K. that triggers digital ads at gas stations tailored to the viewer’s age and gender. Face detection shouldn’t be confused with facial recognition. Cara extracts data from up to 25 faces at once, but it doesn’t record or match them against a database. “The images are destroyed within a fraction of a second,” says Jason Sosa, the CEO of New York–based IMRSV, which developed the software. Most businesses aren’t interested in collecting your face, just the demographic info etched into it."
Very reminiscent of a scene in the film Minority Report in which a character on the run enters a shopping centre and suddenly the stores begin directing ads at him personally, having scanned him and used technology to access both his identity and his buying preferences. On one level this could all seem way out, but if you think about it, there are any number of technologies that already make recommendations to us whether it be musical choices via something like Pandora, or books and the like from Amazon, it strikes me that if the Reebok project proves successful it will become more and more pervasive and a more familiar part of our shopping experience.
It would seem that it it also heralds the ongoing collapse of the private/public equation, another loss of anonymity, this is actually the title of the article.