I have always looked upon my experiences here in Ecuador as nothing short of an adventure.....a "re-conquest". You will find that this Blog not only offers information on how to live, invest or simply visit Ecuador (rated the number one retirement heaven by International Living magazine for 2011) but also informative information and articles on how to survive in this fast changing and volatile World we live in. Your comments are welcome!
El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana
The Conquistador who put the Amazaon baisn "on the map"....Francisco Orellana
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Your Smartphone Can See You
By Mark Nestmann, Wealth Preservation and Privacy Expert
The movie Minority Report depicts a world where a widespread facial recognition network tracks your day-to-day movements in public spaces.
Imagine individual cameras instantly scanning your face next time you take a casual stroll down the street.
Once the facial recognition software confirms your identity, it examines your personal and financial profile. It uses the information to tailor the advertisements you may hear the next time you enter a department store.
It can also identify your location for law enforcement purposes. As in the film, if an elite "pre-crime" police unit concludes that you're about to commit a murder, you'll be arrested, detained, and eventually placed into suspended animation - forever.
Minority Report was set in 2054. When I saw the movie, that date was far enough away to make me believe I wasn't likely to witness the events it depicted in my lifetime.
I was wrong.
Minority Report is here, today. But instead of a network of fixed cameras, every person carrying a smartphone with the appropriate application will be able to identify you through face recognition software.
Here's what could pop up next...
No, this isn't science fiction.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University recently photographed 93 students with a smart-phone - all of whom had Facebook profiles - entering a building. The software then compared those images with a database of Facebook photos of people on the CMU network.
One out of three people in the study was successfully matched to the Facebook photos, and for about one-fourth of the students, researchers retrieved their date and place of birth, along with fragments of their Social Security numbers.
This is Just the Beginning...
Face recognition technology is rapidly improving. Eventually, showing your face in public could mean that anyone you encounter can learn enough information to steal your identity simply by snapping a photo with a smartphone.
If you voluntarily post information on the Internet, available for anyone to retrieve, can those who do so make it available to others? The courts have ruled there is no "expectation of privacy" in such information, so I see no reason why they couldn't.
I'm not aware of any commercial application combining face recognition with online photos and databases. However, police are already using similar applications.
Meet "MORIS," the Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System. MORIS is a handheld face recognition device that plugs into a smart phone. Law-enforcement agencies across the U.S. have ordered 1,000 MORIS units, scheduled for delivery this month.
If a cop wants to find out who you are, he just snaps a picture with his smartphone. He then searches a database to learn if you have a criminal record. MORIS can also take your fingerprints, and match them to criminal history records.
The manufacturer of MORIS, BI2 Technologies, urges police not to use the face recognition feature without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. But if you're in a public place, the courts have concluded that you have a greatly reduced expectation of privacy. Just anyone with a camera, including a cop, can legally take your picture in a public space.
(The reverse, however, is definitely NOT true. If you photograph - or especially, record the voice - of a cop or any other public official, you might be arrested. Indeed, an Illinois man who recently recorded his interactions with a judge in an open court hearing now faces life in prison.)
How Can You Protect Yourself?
Short of never leaving your home, or living in a sparsely-populated rural setting, it will be impossible to avoid the Minority Report world completely. But, there are some steps you can take to lower your vulnerability:
* Delete your photos from social networking sites, dating sites, and especially Facebook. If you're unwilling to delete your photos, make sure to mark your profile as "private."
* Don't post photos of your friends or family members online. Not only does this jeopardize their privacy, it also helps marketers and investigators construct a social network of those with whom you interact.
* To minimize the amount of information about you available online, consider a service such as Reputation.com to remove personal information from websites that market it.
* Always use a post office box or a mail receiving service to send and receive mail and packages—never your home address. Even something as innocent as ordering a pizza delivered to your home address can result in that information recorded in an online database.
* If you have a website, copyright all information you post on it. That way, anyone using that information for any purpose beyond what copyright law defines as "fair use" may be subject to legal sanctions.
What about wearing a hat and dark glasses? That may work for now, but eventually face recognition software will evolve into body recognition and even gait software. Even if you've disguised yourself as George W. Bush and wear a big sombrero as you walk down the street, your body shape and unique walking pattern will eventually reveal your identity.