A new study out of Carnegie Mellon University warns of the possible dangers of tagging photos online, and reports that the risk of identity theft rises when social media profiles get paired with facial recognition software.
According to privacy expert Alessandro Acquisti, Assistant Professor of IT and Public Policy, “combining this kind of software with social media profiles makes it possible to easily identify individuals and gain access to their personal information.”
“A person’s face is the veritable link between her offline and online identities,” explains Acquisti. “When we share tagged photos of ourselves online, it becomes possible for others to link our face to our names in situations where we would normally expect anonymity.”
The study identified individuals on and offline by combining information publicly available on social networking platforms, with a commercially available facial recognition program and cloud computing.
In one experiment, the team was able to identify individuals offline using a popular online dating site where members use pseudonyms to protect their privacy, and in another, they identified students walking on campus using only their Facebook profile pictures.
In a third experiment, the team began with only facial photos and successfully predicted personal interests and information, including social security numbers.
Acquisti’s team also built a mobile app that compiles online and offline data, and displays the individual’s personal information over their face when captured on the smartphone’s screen.
“The seamless merging of online and offline data that face recognition and social media make possible raises the issue of what privacy will mean in an augmented reality world,” Acquisti said.
“Ultimately, all this access is going to force us to reconsider our notions of privacy.”