Recognize This! Ethics of Mobile Face Tagging
With the ready availability of social media, digital databases of ID photos, high-resolution cameras and free, powerful face recognition software that can run on smartphones, we are entering into an unprecedented shift in the visual privacy of everyday people. Technology that was once the domain of authoritarian states, is now being put to use by the hottest tech startups, who often lack the capacity or capability to consider the broader cultural impact.
What right do people have to control personal images in a socially-networked age or to be visually anonymous in a video-mediated world? Startups like Viewdle are building compelling user experiences that correlate people who appear in photos taken with your smartphone, with all of the profile photos stored in your address book and social graphic. The question is, how is it decided who can be recognized and indexed, how and when, and where does control of that record reside?
The ObscuraCam project (developed by WITNESS and the Guardian Project, funded by Google) will be shared as one countermeasure to these trends. It is a mobile app that allows users to automatically conceal faces or objects in photos and video, using pixelization, masks or redaction. It also removes extra metadata, such as GPS location, often stored in media.
Bryan Nunez will represent WITNESS, presenting human rights advocacy driven user stories and challenges. Harlo Holmes will counter with "privacy by design" technology solutions.
Bryan joined WITNESS in 2002. He oversees technology for the organization as well as the development of projects like the Hub, a site for citizen human rights media, and the Secure Smart Cam, a camera-phone app for human rights activists. Prior to WITNESS, he was a technology strategist and consultant on a variety of projects ranging from online banking to interactive television. He is an alumnus of the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU and has a BA in anthropology from UC Berkeley.