Facial recognition software is the eerie stuff of Hollywood cyberthrillers, and interestingly, it always seems to be the “good guys” who are using it badly. The rogue hero somehow manages to thwart their efforts by ducking and weaving through a crowded metro station while the suddenly inept cops can’t find him with their futuristic gadgets.
The real-world application of facial recognition software is a little more mundane, though. Recently, this type of tool was put into use at an outdoor music festival, but not for crowd control or seeking out potential terrorists. The organizers allowed festival-goers to voluntarily opt in to have their faces scanned, and used that information to send them photos of themselves at the concert after if it was over. Attendees sent in a selfie from their phones, and the organizers used the software to find those faces in the crowd then send them their pictures.
But public users in Russia recently found another fun use for facial recognition software, especially when it was paired with an extensive database of users’ images through a site similar to Facebook. There, users with an ax to grind cross-referenced photos that individuals had shared over social media and compared them to faces from porn films and photos, then contacted those individuals to harass and extort them.
Being tracked by the authorities in public places thanks to your facial features is scary enough, but the more plausible and realistic threat of having your past come back to haunt you in a serious way is far more frightening to many people. Thanks to modern-day tools like social media and smartphones, this reality is hitting closer to home for a lot of people.