Your face is Big Data

The end of public anonymity

How would you like it if you some stranger snapped your picture and then used that photo to find out your real name, your address and other information about you?

If face recognition technology may not be brand new, anonymity in public could soon be a thing of the past. You may never again be just a face in the crowd.

FindFace, a new application launched few months ago, by a Russian start-up has the power to identify total strangers on the street from pictures of their faces. It does so by matching the photos against profile pictures from VK —also known as VKontakte—a Russian social networking website like Facebook.

Currently in its beta phase, the application has 500,000 registered users and processed nearly 3 Million searches, according to its co-founders, 26-year-old Artem Kukharenko, and 29-year-old Alexander Kabakov.

With 70% reliability, the app will give you the most likely match to the face that is uploaded, as well as 10 people it thinks look similar.

Kabakov says the app could revolutionise dating: “If you see someone you like, you can photograph them, find their identity, and then send them a friend request. It also looks for similar people. So you could just upload a photo of a movie star you like, or your ex, and then find 10 girls who look similar to her and send them messages.”

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FindFace has marketed itself as a dating app, but its founders hope to make big money from licensing its algorithm to retail companies and law enforcement, claiming that unlike other face recognition technology, their algorithm can search through a billion photographs in less than a second from a normal computer.

The startup is in the final stages of signing a contract with Moscow city government to work with the city’s network of 150,000 CCTV cameras.

For the retail sector, Kabakov imagines a world where cameras fix you looking at a product in a shop, the retailer finds your identity, and then targets you with marketing techniques in the subsequent days.

During the MegaFace challenge organized by the University of Washington’s, the NTech Lab, which created FindFace achieved a 73.3% accuracy and beat Google’s “FaceNet”.

While some young people may find it really cool, it does not take a wild imagination to come up with sinister scenarios of the application.

In fact, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt referred to facial recognition as “the only technology Google has built and, after looking at it, we decided to stop.”

But once this feature becomes the next social media must-have, will companies like Google continue to hold back?

Kaspersky also advised Vkontakte users to make their pictures private and delete old photos from the profile pictures album, if they do not want to be identified by strangers.

“In today’s world we are surrounded by gadgets. Our phones, televisions, fridges, everything around us is sending real-time information about us. Already we have full data on people’s movements, their interests and so on. A person should understand that in the modern world she is under the spotlight of technology. You just have to live with that”.

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