Can You See Me Now?
If you are using social media (and it’s fairly likely that you are if you are reading this blog) then you no doubt have a photo posted up at your account. After all, the experts say you need to put an image with your social media account so people know you are a reasonable, reputable (real) person. Now some experts have come forward with scary tales of how hackers will use facial recognition software to find match your name with your social security number and your blood type.
In the old Steve Martin movie, “The Jerk”, some guy chose names at random from the phone book and went on a shooting spree. He wound up shooting a whole bunch of oil cans, but the lesson was learned: If your name is listed in the phone a crazed killer could find and kill you.
You could also win the lottery every day for a year.
The fact is, if someone wants to do you harm, they will find a way to do it, with or without your photo. Sure, if you post your social security number on your Facebook page bad things will likely happen to you–but who is doing that? Social media, like everything in life, is not without risk. Mitigating that risk is no accident, and it doesn’t involve refusing to post your photograph on Facebook.
Acquisti detailed the results of a series of experiments he conducted in which he applied off-the-shelf facial recognition tools to publicly available Facebook profile images to uniquely identify individuals. In one of the experiments, Acquisti and his team of researchers attempted to glean the true identities of individuals who had posted their images under assumed names on an online dating site
First, they used a search engine and an API they developed to automatically extract about 275,000 publicly available profile images of Facebook members in a particular city.
They then did the same with publicly available images of individuals in the same city who had posted on the dating site. Acquisti used a facial recognition tool called Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition (PittPatt) developed at CMU to see whether he could find matches between the dating site images and the Facebook profile pictures.
In all, about 5,800 dating site members also had Facebook profiles. Of these, more than 4,900 were uniquely identified. The numbers are significant because a previous CMU survey showed that about 90% of Facebook members use their real name on their profiles, Acquisiti said. Though the dating site members had used assumed names to remain anonymous, their real identities were revealed just by matching them with their Facebook profiles.
In another experiment, Acquisti’s team took webcam photos of nearly 100 students and tried to match those images with the pictures on each student’s Facebook profile.
Students were asked to pose for three photos and then fill out a short survey. While the surveys were being filled out, the webcam images were run against PittPatt to see whether a match could be found on Facebook.
In that experiment, about 31% of the students were correctly matched with their Facebook profiles — in about 3 seconds.
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