We are Being Watched

Big Brother. He is always present, always watching, and he looms right over us all the time. This sounds like some kind of old war propaganda right? Maybe just the ramblings of some old guy caught up in the Cold War. However, there is becoming more of a reality every moment. Should this be something we need to be concerned about, or do the benefits outweigh the costs?

Source: cpa.org.au

As it turns out, the technology has been available since the late 1960’s and facial recognition is not some new fangled doo-dad that is only seen in spy movies. You could walk down the street in a crowded city block and a very complicated algorithm can detect who you are, and then dig even deeper from there. Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, lets talk about how facial recognition software works. Faceit, a software developed for this kind of thing, compares “nodal points,” or distinguishable landmarks on a person’s face to a database to try and find a match. There are over 80 of these features, which include the distance between eyes, width of the nose, length of the jaw line, and many more. This is a 2D system and even the slightest variation in light can throw the results off.

Source: hswstatic.com

This system has been tested with airport security and had around a 60% success rate. Not exactly the most reliable thing. What could make this more reliable? 3D facial recognition.

This system is much more flexible, more precise, and measures aspects of the face that are unique and don’t change – such as the curves of your eye socket, nose, and chin. The algorithm goes through six different stages to identify a person: Detection, alignment, measurement, representation, matching, and lastly verification/identification. If you thought this was pretty complicated, it gets much worse.

With this kind of technology, we should just stay in the safety of our homes and avoid security cameras at all risk, right? Well, with how technology is progressing, that isn’t going to save you either. Our own household appliances are even starting to spy on us. Tv’s and cable boxes are starting to come with built in cameras that are designed to help tailor ads to the user (if it detects kids, more ads for kid friendly shows will pop up). If they are connected to the internet, it can collect and store data about how we use these devices and anyone potentially could view it. Actually, just about all of our appliances may be used against us…a bit unnerving isn’t it?

Yes, just a bit, and while would-be hackers could find their way in and use your dishwasher or toaster against you, it does come with it’s benefits. While manufacturers maintain the addition of WiFi is so they can help troubleshoot your device and make it more energy efficient, it also gives you more control over it. You can start preheating your oven for a pizza you are picking up at the store….while still in the checkout lane. You can turn your lights on or off with a tap of your phone. You can regulate heating and cooling, brew a pot of coffee, change channels on your television, and so much more from your phone. You could be halfway across the world and be able to check if your oven really was on or not.

Jokes aside, we do have some degree of control over how private our lives are. If you are worried that someone is watching, then maybe you should quit posting your day to day lives on social media. This information is being used in court cases now involving multiple issues, especially divorce and child custody cases. Like with everything, there are pros and cons to each side. Should we be worried that much of our lives are being monitored by a computer? Probably not. If it really bothers you, then maybe you should look into getting “off the grid.”

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