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Report Hints At Privacy Problem of Drones That Can Recognize Faces 107

Posted by timothy
from the well-this-water's-just-a-bit-warm dept.
New submitter inotrollyou writes "Drones are getting more sophisticated, and will soon carry 'soft' biometrics and facial recognition software. In other news, sales of hats, tinfoil, and laser pointers go up 150%. Obviously there are major privacy concerns and not everyone is down for this." It's not just drones, either: In my old neighborhood in Philadelphia the Orwellian police cameras were everywhere, and they're being touted as a solution for crime in my Texas neighborhood, too. The report itself is more predictive than proscriptive; under U.S. law, as the Register points out, you can expect less legal as well as practical privacy protection the further you are on the continuum between home and public space.
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Report Hints At Privacy Problem of Drones That Can Recognize Faces

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  • by glop (181086) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @08:34AM (#41345423)

    So the solution is simple. Let's all wear burqas to protect our privacy!
    I believe you can also analyze people's gaits and recognize them that way. So let's all use Segways.
    That would be a rather funny dystopian future, no?
    Or I guess we could start making a few laws defending our right to some anonymity.

    • by lightknight (213164) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @08:43AM (#41345459) Homepage

      But if you make laws to protect people's privacy, then the terrorists win!

      Because only a terrorist would want to protect their privacy.

      • by markdavis (642305)

        +1 I wish I had mod points.

        "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" makes me want to barf.

        "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." -Ben Franklin.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety, but a Large Boot up their Ass." -A. Coward

    • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Saturday September 15, 2012 @09:00AM (#41345505) Homepage

      So the solution is simple. Let's all wear burqas to protect our privacy!

      Maybe the "scramble suits" in Philip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly [amazon.com] , instead of being a sad manifestation of the author's mental illness as long thought, were an idea whose time is coming. On the other hand, many jurisdictions already have laws against walking around in a face mask of any kind.

      • ... and have laws against removing the license plate from your car. The original purpose of a license plate was merely to prove that you had paid a registration tax, not as a means of identifying someone.

        • by timothy (36799) Works for Slashdot

          Funny: My grandmother was a stickler for grammar and spelling; I remember her correcting my use of "license plate." "No, it's a registration plate or registration tag. The driver gets the license."

    • by ryzvonusef (1151717) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @09:15AM (#41345559) Journal

      You are looking for the Pixelated Mask/Balaclava

      http://www.martinbackes.com/new-artwork-pixelhead/ [martinbackes.com]

      One with a person actually wearing it:
      http://www.thelocal.de/society/20120823-44537.html [thelocal.de]

      • Nice idea but already illegal in many countries...
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          Police carry guns-->illegal for the public to carry guns
          Police wear balaklavas-->illegal for the public to wear balaklavas
          Police eat donuts-->WHERE WILL THE MADNESS END?
        • by Anonymous Coward

          True, but why are governments in the US permitted to write anti-mask laws? Such things are rather clearly unconstitutional on several levels, but nobody fights it because, up until now, the only reason other than parties and parades to wear a mask in public was because you were up to something. It simply wasn't necessary to obscure your face to stop privacy violations.

          "But, but, anybody can see you in public". The statists and cop-apologists like to say that one a lot. Like most conservative crap, it's

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      But I have huge moobs and might be mistaken for a woman! Wait... I feel a hysterical plot for a movie coming on... Coming soon to a theater near you! Abdul is fresh off the boat from Afghanistan! And he's about to find out that all those hot American women aren't women at all!... Still coming... still coming... Doh! I lost it!
    • by jbeaupre (752124) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @10:05AM (#41345757)

      Easier solution: let it be known that cops are being replaced with cameras. Cops currently support the camera system under the belief it helps them do their job. But if they start to think it makes them obsolete....

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah good fucking luck on that front.
      We have obama the media mafia asshole now. Lookin like romney the robot is next. He belongs to the banks and insurance companies.

      None of them. And none of the people in power have any interest in protecting anything the rest of us would call 'rights'. Unless it involves the right to be a good little consumer/worker and shut the fuck up.

      And as the majority (or so im told) of people in this country keep voting for D and R (like they are different) None of this shit

    • We have a right to anonymity? Since when?
    • I have been practicing "false gaits" a la the Ministry of Silly Walks. I suggest you all do the same. Rather than a burqa, I am opting for a Guy Fawkes mask (aka V for Vendetta mask, aka Anonymous mask). I have a casual notion to start a new religion called the Anonymous Children of God Church (ACGC), which will have as a core precept the wearing of such a mask in public. The reason we all need to wear masks is self-evident. If we all look like Guy Fawkes, there will be less prejudice in the world. T
  • by felisconcolori (1191151) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @08:51AM (#41345477)

    I often see this targeted specifically towards law enforcement drones. But what about MY drones? Facial recognition software isn't limited to them, and camera-toting low flying drones (or just cameras) are increasingly lower in price. (Example, the AR.Drone.)

    If laws are needed to protect privacy, they need to be expanded beyond just law enforcement. I'm certain that Facebook, Amazon, Target, Google, etc, all have far more extensive databases that can (in conjunction with facial recognition software and a camera) not only track where you are (and verify with cell phone data) but what stores are between your destinations, in your vicinity, and target advertisements very specifically.

    The government is not efficient enough, nor do they have the technical savvy, to use the vast majority of the data they collect. Even assuming that department A talks to agency C, or that they have remotely compatable databases/protocols.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "The government is not efficient enough, nor do they have the technical savvy, to use the vast majority of the data they collect."

      If you believe this you have been listening to too much media chatter. The government's "technical savvy" is as great as any available and its lack of "efficiency" just means that they are not constrained by limited resources.

      The problem with imagining distopian futures from fiction is that people always see themselves as the protagonist in the story. But the vast majority of peo

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      The government is not efficient enough, nor do they have the technical savvy, to use the vast majority of the data they collect. Even assuming that department A talks to agency C, or that they have remotely compatable databases/protocols.

      The NSA exists to be efficient, technically savvy, and have the ability to glom multiple databases together.

      The idea that government is not efficient or "savvy" really needs to lay down and take a nap.
      There's a reason we talk about things that require the resources of a government.

      • Just as soon as the NSA willingly hands over any of that data, or solicits the input of another federal agency (let alone local or state police departments) without a written order from someone of authority, your argument may have merit.

        I do not see this happening any time soon.

        (Note: I have some familiarity with the cultural and procedural difficulties inherent in cooperation, even within a single organization.)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Historically, airborne vehicles were few, expensive and clearly identifieid by their markings, and carried an assumption of legality. With inexpensive video-driven drones how will the public be able to clearly identify a "good" drone from a "bad / pervert-driven" drone that's upskirting flybys?

    • by russotto (537200)

      With inexpensive video-driven drones how will the public be able to clearly identify a "good" drone from a "bad / pervert-driven" drone that's upskirting flybys?

      The upskirting drones will be hovering in ground effect at knee-level.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    That is all. Welcome to the USSA.

    • by shiftless (410350)

      And the comment pointing it out was modded troll. I'm having flashbacks to Nazi Germany now.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It'll keep those damn meddling kids of my lawn.

    Isn't that worth it?

  • by Stirling Newberry (848268) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @09:29AM (#41345627) Homepage Journal
    Is that everyone is strictly liable for everything. My car, parked in a garage, was hit while I was parked. The other driver just left, now I am left holding the deductible, and the insurance surcharge. In effect, this is going to cost me at least 1200 USD unless I can convince my insurance company –who would be the beneficiary of that 1200 dollars – to waive liability. But since no one saw, and there were no cameras, there's only forensic proof that I wasn't at fault. Which means having my solicitor argue in court, which costs money as well.

    However, if I had had a camera in my car recording everything, I would have had pictures of the person who did it, and they would be responsible for all of that. Hence, the victim of a crime, and a hit and run is a crime, has a very good reason for wanting a police state. They forget the little things they did to others, and remember only their own distress that someone robbed them of their property. As long as Americans, and I am specifically talking about the US here, are criminals, there is going to be a continual clamoring for more security, as long as everyone is personally responsible for everything. Every so often someone will find some deep pockets to go after, which leads to one of those silly sounding law suits –which sometimes are silly, but are often not as facile as their caricature.

    So that's the reality, as long as people who are taking every precaution get screwed by the wild westers out there, they will demand more protection, more security, and hence, fewer rights for all. Because real liberty comes with the price of responsibility, and Americans have long since decided they just don't want the responsibility, and would, instead, rather steal from each other.

    As for me, while this loss is annoying, it doesn't seem to me to be a good argument for more spy cams. But I'm not most people, having visited some unfree countries, where there is little crime, because the criminals are all wearing nice blue and green uniforms, and carrying automatic weapons.

    • ...Americans have long since decided they just don't want the responsibility, and would, instead, rather steal from each other.

      Yeah well, it's hard to tell if they follow, or set the example [johnpaulus.com]. American criminals wear nice suits.. Watching the punks is the perfect diversion.

      • It's also easier to name the punk in the white SUV that slammed into your car and drove away, drive by banking collapses have many more hands at the wheel.
    • by shiftless (410350)

      However, if I had had a camera in my car recording everything, I would have had pictures of the person who did it, and they would be responsible for all of that. Hence, the victim of a crime, and a hit and run is a crime, has a very good reason for wanting a police state. They forget the little things they did to others, and remember only their own distress that someone robbed them of their property. As long as Americans, and I am specifically talking about the US here, are criminals, there is going to be a continual clamoring for more security, as long as everyone is personally responsible for everything.

      You're right, but got it exactly backwards in the last sentence. Government has steadily removed responsibility from the people, through educating them to be weak and helpless without aid from others. Then passing mandatory insurance laws and the like was simply child's play, by promising guaranteed protection from all ills (i.e. auto accidents) which the citizen was naive suckered into. He would have been financially better off to have just set aside that auto insurance money, and all the other money that

  • the problem (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @10:02AM (#41345747)
    The problem with security issues like this are not the devices or systems themselves, nor is the government that installs them for benevolent purposes like safer streets or to combat terrorism. The problem with such systems are the governments of the future that use what's left for them to oppress. To us, all of these new issues are, at most, annoying. But for our grandchildren, when the wrong person gets into office, these systems could literally become a living nightmare.
  • CCTV cameras have NEVER prevented a crime.

    Also: CCTV cameras have NEVER solved a crime.

    • by pubwvj (1045960)

      Not true. Several crimes in our state have been solved due to the perps being photographed by surveillance cameras at banks and businesses.

      I'm not arguing pro or con on the drones, just correcting the facts.

      • CCTV isn't admissible for good reason: the resolution sucks.

        At twenty feet, one would have difficulty separating the eyes on the face of a subject, never mind smaller features with which to determine a positive identification of a perp.

        The only use it has is for extracting confessions.

        • by pubwvj (1045960)

          But the beauty is the CCTV enabled the police to identify the person and then once they had them they found other clues about their person that were admissible. CCTV photos solved the crime. Without them the perp would have gotten off scott free. Thus CCTV does help solve crimes and is useful.

          Still has nothing to do with drones, especially since those have higher resolution but facts are facts.

  • The Real Question... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SuperCharlie (1068072) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @11:17AM (#41346117)
    Who do you trust? That is the real question. We are a stones throw away from every aspect of our lives being recorded and monitored. Who do you trust with this information? Not who has the right to it, not what is public or private spaces, who would you hand your life to and say..here..have this.. everything I do, everywhere I go, everything I say, every dime I spend.. have this information of me. Do you trust the police? Would you readily hand this information to them? How about your state government? Maybe the FBI, CIA, NSA or any other 3-letter agency? Do you trust them with every detail of your life? Or maybe the Federal Govt? Do you trust them to use this information wisely and not abusively? The fact is every one of these entities and probably more will very soon have every piece of this information at their fingertips. So the question remains.. who do you trust? And it is being answered for us.
  • The thing is, ya gotta ask, "Would old King George III of England have used it against the colonists?" If yes, it probably should be banned Constitutionally.

    Oh wait, this is Texas. Ummmm, would Santa Anna have used it against Davy Crockett at The Alamo? Yes he would have.

  • Value vs Cost (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Saturday September 15, 2012 @12:46PM (#41346621)
    The whole problem with this argument is that the value to the police and companies gathering the data (including paparazzi) is huge. But the cost to the average individual is low in that do you really care that the bridge just kept a record of you driving over it?

    So those gathering the data try really hard to make sure the law doesn't interfere with them and the average guy on the street doesn't work too hard to stop them.

    Where we the average Joe need to pay real attention is the compiling this data. Suddenly it isn't some useless log wasting space on the Bridge Commission's server but government data compiling that starts making an Orwellian list of who you are, your friends, your associations. This way a politician (say the local Sheriff) can target rivals. You might find that the major donors to a campaign can quickly be found to have mistresses, is gay, or things like business dealings that they don't want public (not bad things just things like a land deal that if public is ruined); nothing illegal just private.

    People blah blah about the 2nd amendment but power doesn't sensibly come from a well oiled 9mm except in action movies. It comes from control of information. If you control the flow and content of information then you have real power. If we allow governments and corporations to gather and compile real about us then they will have real power over us.

    Quite simply the western world needs to massively restrict what information can be gathered but even more importantly its compilation. As I say it is probably better for all of us if the bridge can figure out usage patterns of drivers. But the FBI should have zero access to this information without a specific warrant for a specific car for a specific case and with probable cause. I am not talking about that the bridge would be allowed to refuse but that by law they would have to refuse.

    The reverse needs to be true; we need full access to what our governments and corporations are up to; this would massively reduce the stupidity that they tend to get up to. Again control of information works for us here and oddly enough results in the members of a democracy having power returned to them.

    A great example of the hypocrisy of most western governments is that they want to video us with speed/red light cameras, drones, police cameras; yet in nearly every senate, congress, parliament, or council they have strict rules about how the cameras are run. In Canada when someone is speaking the dozen or so people who bothered to show up crowd around behind them so that on camera it looks like they are all there; in reality the parliament is usually nearly empty. They say that any other way would "confuse" the people. Also you basically never get images of them sleeping, picking their noses, or just worst of all just never being there.

    In one of the worst councils in North America Halifax has nearly every critical meeting behind closed doors. Again the public can't handle the truth or the discussion is proprietary ( meaning they are discussing a deal with a private company that would make you vomit). The same with the completely worthless Legislature. Their discussions are only released something like 90 years later.

    The whole paranoia about governments watching us is simple math. If they can watch us cost effectively they will. If they can stop us from watching them they will.
    • by couchslug (175151)

      "People blah blah about the 2nd amendment but power doesn't sensibly come from a well oiled 9mm except in action movies"

      Power certainly flows from the barrel of a Kalashnikov, which can be used to obtain more powerful weapons from the State itself.

      Without the ability to kill your enemies you are helpless. Laws are mere paper constructs, but violence is real and powerful. Ask Qaddafi!
      Oh, wait, violence solved that problem too.

      The Assadists in Syria made many laws, but Syrians are dealing with that problem by

  • I'll just stay here on my mountain surrounded by my 400 ninja guard pigs and do target practice... Oops that one was a drone. Looked like a skeet to me.

  • Report Hints At Privacy Problem of Drones That Can Recognize Faces

    Yeah, those drones can be touchy about their privacy. Have you ever seen one with a facebook page? Personally, I would respect their privacy, because having a drone unhappy at you could have lethal consequences.

  • The millimeter wave scanners ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millimeter_wave_scanner [wikipedia.org] ) in use at airports now, have a resolution that exceeds what is needed to catalog faces for facial recognition software. I don't think there is any evidence that the TSA has been tasked with building a facial recognition database. But, I also see that there is nothing stopping them from doing it. There is nothing stopping Congressmen from passing laws that would make such a thing legal. I'm not even sure if new laws wou

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