Facebook’s facial recognition capability should scare you.
From a mere photo, Facebook can identify your profile. From there, the sky is the limit because the company knows as much about you as you let it, which for some people is nearly everything.
You might think Facebook’s facial recognition feature isn’t so bad right now. After all, it’s only an auto-suggestion among friends to tag your photo. Also, you can ‘opt out’ of this function (i.e. not allow Facebook to auto-suggest your name to your friends).
However, the real danger is in the existence of Facebook’s facial identity database.
Why is that bad? Consider this scenario.
A bunch of protestors march down the main street in the capital city. The secret police takes a photo of the group. They identify these individuals through Facebook’s recognition system. Next morning, they round these people up and ‘disappear’ them.
But wait a minute, wouldn’t Facebook refuse to divulge that information? That’s probably true, but it doesn’t mean governments can’t access it.
Consider that the secret police can easily arrest one of the protestors, torture his Facebook password out of him, and identity the other protestors through Facebook facial recognition. The fact that protestors often organize events through Facebook means they’re often Facebook friends.
Then there are moles. A recent Guardian report alleged that one in four US hackers are FBI moles. These are either professional agents who infiltrated the hacker community or hackers who became moles to avoid criminal prosecution.
When Facebook facial recognition gears up, governments can easily infiltrate Facebook networks with moles, especially considering the indiscriminate way many Facebook users accept friend request.
In fact, the moles don’t even have to be real people; the US government is already successfully tracking suspected criminals through fake Facebook accounts.
There is also straight up hacking, which repressive governments are not shy to do. Finally, ten years from now, who knows how cooperative Facebook will become towards heavy-handed regimes?
While opting out of Facebook’s features protects you from moles, it won’t protect you from hacking and Facebook choosing to turn over your information.
I used repressive government regimes as an example, but this applies to all sorts of people, organizations, and situations.
Had an unflattering encounter at a club? Walked past a creepy person ogling at you? Made a stranger angry for whatever reason? Made a customer angry (if you work in the services industry)? (What if all of this happened to a minor, who probably has a Facebook account and perhaps accepts friend requests indiscriminately?)
Before, you couldn’t be identified as long as you don’t provide your name or don’t leave any ID. Now, you could be through a simple picture of you taken by a camera phone. From there, your phone number, address, email, place of employment, the identities of your family members, and any other information you give to Facebook could be accessed.
The point is that Facebook is building a facial database that’s far from secure. Ironically, it’s an issue of ‘opting in’ in the physical space.
In modern society, it’s necessary to have identifications. Before, you control whether or not you identify yourself in the physical world. Now, if Facebook has its way, it’ll only take the showing of your face.