The Dangerous World of Facial Recognition Tech: What You Can Do About It

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There’s a very basic fact you need to realise. Your data is more valuable to you than any other asset you own.

Your house, your stock portfolio, crypto portfolio, cash, cars, jewellery, watches…all of it is nowhere near as valuable as your data.

Now I’m not just talking about the cookies you gather up and leave behind online. I’m not just talking about the search history that you’ve probably never deleted.

I’m talking about those as well as the more important, identity-defining data that we part with on a daily basis.

Data like your face, your voice, your fingerprints, your very DNA are all data points that are worth more than you realise. In fact there’s suggestion that now data is an industry worth more than big oil.

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Welcome to the 21st century

However, all this data creation comes at a cost. And that cost seems to increasingly be your freedom. There’s also another cost, a security cost.

Let me ask you this, when you use your fingerprint to open your phone, where does that data exist? Okay on your phone is the obvious answer. But then tell me this, how safe is your phone?

Are you 100% certain that no one has ever accessed or could access your phone? Think about other places you might use a fingerprint. Some ‘modern’ buildings now use biometric info like facial recognition and fingerprints for access.

If you’ve seen that before, do you know where that data is located? Do you know who’s keeping it safe?

Or perhaps the better question is, why don’t you have utter control of that data, who can see it, use it and where it gets stored?

Same thing goes when you’re walking through an airport, or if you’re in London, just down the street. You’ll notice it more in cities as well as around Australia. The cameras. The cameras are everywhere, watching, monitoring, profiling.

We know that law enforcement is trying to implement facial recognition into policing. Big Brother Watch submitted a report to British Parliament in 2018 noting:

  • South Wales Police store photos of all innocent people incorrectly matched by facial recognition for a year, without their knowledge, resulting in a biometric database of over 2,400 innocent people
  • Home Office spent £2.6m funding South Wales Police’s use of the technology, although it is “almost entirely inaccurate”
  • Metropolitan Police’s facial recognition matches are 98% inaccurate, misidentifying 95 people at last year’s Notting Hill Carnival as criminals — yet the force is planning 7 more deployments this year.’

Also Orlando law enforcement has twice tried to implement facial recognition using Amazon’s ‘Rekognition’ software. But they’ve now twice dumped it according to The Verge because, ‘the city didn’t have the necessary equipment or bandwidth to get it properly running and never once was able to test it live.’

But it’s not just the police who are desperately using this future tech to build their data collections.

Car camo for your face

We know that facial recognition technology is the next frontier of data mining by big tech. ‘Rekognition’ can apparently now detect gender along with emotions including, ‘Happy, Sad, Angry, Surprised, Disgusted, Calm, Confused’ and now also ‘Fear’.

This would be particularly handy for law enforcement, as we know. But it’s also then able to identify people in pictures online, streaming feeds, or of course out ‘in the wild’.

And there’s something very Orwellian about it all. The fact that it’s still early days for this kind of technology, but it’s already being widely tested by law enforcement.

It makes us think there’s really no outcome here other than to accept everywhere you go you will be watched and monitored. If only there was something you could do about it…

Thankfully there is. And it doesn’t mean wearing a motorbike helmet everywhere.

Of all places to get inspiration from the auto industry provides it.

When cars are in pre-release status, in concept mode, carmakers often drape them in camouflage. You’ve probably seen one or two on the road before. Or if not just do a quick google image search for ‘camo concept car’.

The reason carmakers do this is to stop paparazzi from getting an early scoop on the design and detail of an upcoming car. The patterns help to obfuscate the lines and shapes that define the car.

This very principle could be applied to future fashion in a world where wearing ‘anti-facial recognition’ makeup becomes a legitimate day-to-day social trend. It doesn’t mean completely painting your face in black and white.

But it might present an opportunity to use certain patterns or swirls in a fashion-conscious way, but also serving to confuse cameras as to the identifier bumps and curvatures of your face.

Of course this then plays out in a more dystopian way that all makeup is banned. In which case that’s going to hit the bottom line for a huge raft of companies like The Estee Lauder Companies, L’Oréal, Shiseido and other major makeup manufacturers.

Will it play out that way?

Well it depends on how much facial recognition infiltrates our day-to-day life. And it depends on how much people care about their identity and data being captured, locked away and used without their consent.

Only you get to decide which path this heads down and how the battle ends.


Sam Volkering,
Editor, Money Morning

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About Sam Volkering

Sam Volkering is an Editor for Money Morning and is small-cap, cryptocurrency and technology expert.

He’s not interested in boring blue chip stocks. He’s after explosive investments; companies whose shares trade for cents on the dollar, cryptocurrencies that can deliver life-changing returns. He looks for the ‘edge of the bell curve’…

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