Alessandro Acquisti, an associate professor of information technology and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, warned that social media users who post photos of themselves on the Internet are at great risk for identity theft, among other dangers.
In a series of experiments, Acquisti and his team applied off-the-shelf facial recognition tools to compare people who posted their photos on Facebook and dating Web sites. They were able to identify certain users and find information on them. Even scarier, they were able to identify people who operated on social media Web sites under different names.
Acquisti spoke about the findings at this year's Black Hat conference in Las Vegas. The results, he said, could be disastrous in terms of privacy concerns.
Facial recognition tools are a touchy subject in the social media world. Any creeper with an agenda can use their camera phone to snap an innocent bystander and then possibly use that photo to pull up their online information, particularly information posted on social media Web sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Dating Web sites are also fair game.
While the tests conducted by Acquisti are not 100 percent right every time, they still say a great deal about perceptions of online privacy- or the lack thereof- and the direction in which this type of technology is headed.
"Your face is the link between your offline identity and your online identity," he said.