August 1st, 2017

Facial recognition systems at the railway station?

Here’s a little tidbit:

German authorities have launched a six-month test of automatic facial recognition technology at a Berlin railway station, which the country’s top security official says could be used to improve security in the future.

More than 200 people volunteered to have their names and two photos stored for the project at Suedkreuz station, where three cameras film an entrance and an escalator.

I don’t know what you thought when you read that, but I know what I thought: it’s a good thing the Nazis didn’t have access to something like that.

I understand the need for security, I truly do. But at what price? And yet I think this is the direction in which we’re headed whether we like it or not.

Also, see this.

When I was young, we used to have a lot of discussions about which was more likely to come true in the future: Orwell’s or Huxley’s dystopian fantasies. Now I’m thinking we may be headed towards some hybrid of the two.

26 Responses to “Facial recognition systems at the railway station?”

  1. Cap'n Rusty Says:

    Maybe Germany could just expel all the people that don’t look like Germans? It is said that our pre-historic ancestors formed tribes of people who looked like each other. They didn’t trust anyone who didn’t look (or in those days, probably, didn’t smell) like them. That’s still in our DNA.

    I think I’d choose tribes over Big Brother.

  2. huxley Says:

    I vividly remember all those bold sixties/seventies cries about the lone individual being crushed by corporations and computers. As the TV show “The Prisoner” put it:

    I am not a number, I am a free man!

    We are far, far more tracked, surveilled and controlled today. It’s actually getting serious, but aside from some ineffectual fist-shaking towards the NSA, people don’t seem to worry much about it.

  3. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    A refusal to face an unpleasant reality ensures a future confrontation with a far grimmer reality.

  4. huxley Says:

    I won’t go on Facebook because it’s an open invitation to be data-mined by an unscrupulous corporation.

    A friend tells me Facebook offers its participants the chance to identify the people shown in the photos they post to Facebook.

    You just know that information is going to be used for mega-huge facial recognition crunching of all photos in the Facebook clouds.

    Likewise Google’s Picasa app has a facial recognition feature which is on by default. I trust Google slightly more than Facebook but that’s not saying much.

  5. Cap'n Rusty Says:

    Geoffrey and huxley and Neo

    Then there’s THIS.

  6. Big Maq Says:

    “aside from some ineffectual fist-shaking towards the NSA, people don’t seem to worry much about it.” – huxley

    With that popular attitude, or lack of concern, there will be a day when privacy will be long gone as monitoring devices will be ubiquitous and dirt cheap.
    .

    “A refusal to face an unpleasant reality ensures a future confrontation with a far grimmer reality.”

    Fashionable burkas for males and females, anyone?

  7. parker Says:

    ‘They’ know everything about all of us. Our mail is scanned and the IRS knows every penny you have received or spent. When it is time to go dark the revolution will not be televised.

  8. T Says:

    If you haven’t watched any of the series Person of Interest it revolves around advanced and ubiquitous versions of exactly this. At leas it’s only a television series . . . for now.

    Perhaps an EMP will be a savior for society rather than its downfall in the face of this evermore intrusive technology.

  9. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Cap’t Rusty,

    Class Action Lawsuit, clearly a 1st amendment violation. They’re not just doing it to him. Social networks are a democratic form of free speech. The number of followers is a perfect metric of mass interest in that speech. Censorship is a de facto violation of free speech.

  10. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Addendum: THIS is the type of case that AG Jeff Sessions should be pursuing.

  11. TommyJay Says:

    Having blathered on about Christopher Nolan and Dunkirk let me recommend Jonathan Nolan’s “Person of Interest.” All 5 seasons on Netflix. (Also, “See No Evil” on solving crimes with surveillance cameras.)

    The show POI is mostly character and crime story driven, but has a large amount of material on the surveillance state. Also, while the first two or so episodes are very good, it rapidly settles into a repetitive crime story procedural. Then a few episodes into season two it really starts to take off again.
    ______

    A few points about the US surveillance state.

    1) Tucker Carlson claims that he speaks with a couple of congress persons sitting on intelligence committees who refuse to talk to him about sensitive unclassified matters over the phone. They believe or fear that folks at the NSA may be monitoring the actual phone calls and leaking to whomever they wish. Illegally, of course. Intelligence committee people should know more about this stuff than us.

    2) Ed Snowden was one of more than 900 people working at the NSA that had complete control of the intelligence databases, including the ability to erase any computer forensic data on who accessed what. The law controls what should and should not happen with those databases, not what could or does happen. I don’t believe it is possible to maintain a high level of security over 900 people, and they certainly didn’t with Snowden.

    It is highly likely that at least a half dozen foreign intelligence agencies maintain extensive copies of NSA databases. Why spend billions on surveillance when someone else already did that, and refuses to protect it well?

    IRS agents are forbidden by law from surfing through tax returns of random citizens, yet years ago a dozen or more agents were caught doing just that. Usually boyfriends and girlfriends and celebrities were targeted. And the IRS brass never made any effort to police this until congressional oversight demanded it. That is, “We’re from the government and we don’t care (about you).”

    3) Economic big-wigs such as Larry Summers have gone on record to recommend that paper currency denominated in $100 and $50 be eliminated. Why? Because too much economic freedom/mobility/secrecy makes life too easy for criminals and tax cheats. Yes, but…….

    4) All my Bing searches (because Google is too evil) that have a political element of turn up pages produced by MSNBC, or HuffPo, or Vox, etc. Why? Because I live in a deep blue community and “they” know my zip code. Which is OK if I can control it, but I can’t.
    ______

    To Neo’s direct example, I don’t have a big problem with being surveilled (video) in public. It is very useful in dealing with crime and terrorism. But recording all internet, email, and phone call voice data is going way too far. And can they access the GPS of your smart phone? Can they turn on the microphone of a powered up smart phone??? The technology is not that hard to do.

  12. TommyJay Says:

    Oh yeah, did you catch the photo of Mark Zuckerberg a year or so ago? He was standing next to his personal laptop and you could see that he had taped over the camera and microphone on the laptop. What does that tell you? On the other hand, I don’t have a $60B estate at stake either.

  13. AesopFan Says:

    huxley Says:
    August 1st, 2017 at 7:28 pm
    …I trust Google slightly more than Facebook but that’s not saying much.
    * * *
    https://www.recode.net/2017/2/6/14519750/apple-google-facebook-trump-immigration
    Tech giants Apple, Google and Facebook are fighting President Trump’s immigration ban
    A group of 97 companies, most from the tech industry, filed a legal brief opposing the travel ban.
    BY KURT WAGNER FEB 6, 2017, 3:09AM EST

    For more depth, see this:
    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/450029/silicon-valley-immigration-reform-amnesty-support-foolish-counterproductive

    The tech industry’s most prominent leaders favor mass immigration, for no good reason. In 2013, a group of tech heavyweights, led by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and including fellow oligarchs Eric Schmidt (Google) and Bill Gates (Microsoft), founded FWD.us, a lobbying and advocacy group that would go on to spend millions of dollars promoting “comprehensive immigration reform.” Of course, the founders had not anticipated the 2016 election of Donald Trump as president.

    FWD.us and Zuckerberg began by emphasizing skilled immigrants but then backed off as critics on the left accused them of “elitism.” “The bigger problem we’re trying to address is ensuring the 11 million undocumented folks living in this country now and similar folks in the future are treated fairly,” Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook. But do we need “comprehensive immigration reform” to maintain our technological and entrepreneurial leadership? Will America’s technology and innovation base be devastated by President Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration, his attempts to reform legal immigration, and his temporary ban on admitting travelers from a small number of countries with governments known to be unstable or hostile to the U.S.? Data on immigrants in Silicon Valley suggest that the answer is no.

  14. AesopFan Says:

    T Says:
    August 1st, 2017 at 10:09 pm
    If you haven’t watched any of the series Person of Interest it revolves around advanced and ubiquitous versions of exactly this. At leas it’s only a television series . . . for now.

    Perhaps an EMP will be a savior for society rather than its downfall in the face of this evermore intrusive technology.
    * * *
    A modern variant of “fire and brimstone”?

  15. AesopFan Says:

    Cap’n Rusty Says:
    August 1st, 2017 at 7:55 pm
    Geoffrey and huxley and Neo

    Then there’s THIS.
    * *
    At least when the government attacks you they have to give reasons and follow due process.
    Sometimes.
    If they feel like it.

  16. neo-neocon Says:

    TommyJay:

    I was actually thinking of a very specific scenario that occurred during World War II. There were people (mostly Jews, but other people as well) who got false papers and lived incognito under assumed identities. The Nazis tried to determine whether people were who they said they were, but the Nazis didn’t have the technology to do it anywhere near as efficiently as they could have done with a technology like this.

  17. The Other Chuck Says:

    There are ways to evade. Take Christine in Witness For The Prosecution. Would this technology determine that Christine is Marlene Dietrich?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9JniMBfW18

  18. Tim Turner Says:

    There’s also counter-surveillance technologies.

    Like sunglasses that trick facial recognition software into thinking you’re someone else.
    https://www.theverge.com/2016/11/3/13507542/facial-recognition-glasses-trick-impersonate-fool

  19. AesopFan Says:

    Tim Turner Says:
    August 1st, 2017 at 11:40 pm
    There’s also counter-surveillance technologies.

    Like sunglasses that trick facial recognition software into thinking you’re someone else.
    https://www.theverge.com/2016/11/3/13507542/facial-recognition-glasses-trick-impersonate-fool
    * *
    Now you’re getting us into “Mission: Impossible” territory.

  20. AesopFan Says:

    A followup to my comment above on the Silicon Valley pro-immigration cabal:
    AesopFan Says:
    August 1st, 2017 at 11:00 pm
    (stripping out one sentence of the second article)
    “The tech industry’s most prominent leaders favor mass immigration, for no good reason.”

    * * *
    They do have a reason (rational, if not existentially good), just not the one they are “playing” in public:
    (ignore the click-bait headline; it’s a serious article making some good points)

    https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/trump-dynasty-luttwak/?utm_content=buffer270f1&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

    “What was true of coal mining is just as true of much else that also directly attacks the interests of the American working classes, a categor­ization revived by Sanders explicitly and by Trump substantively – and it was the forty-fifth President’s grim inaugural speech warning that he would not forget them or their pressing needs, as the cynical had confidently assumed he would (the ex-economist Paul Krugman wrote that particular column several times in the New York Times during the campaign), that triggered the vehement panic of the elite Americans who are now trying to drive Trump from office. For those pressing needs include the restriction of competing labour inflows, and ever so liberal Silicon Valley tycoons would be totally lost without their Mexican gardeners, Asian chefs, Filipino childminders, and assorted immigrant dog-walkers and cleaners, along with their Indian programmers under special visas. “

  21. Stubbs Says:

    I certainly hate the idea of advertisers tracking my internet searching, etc., but that is mainly a function of having the internet experience become an assault by advertising that becomes more annoying by the day. Advertising ruined television, and it is on its way to ruining the internet. Otherwise, I tend to see the benefits of being part of a larger context that can be followed.

    About a year ago there was a fascinating article about an English police operation that employs people who can remember faces for a long time and with great accuracy. They have been successful. Here is an article about the article (at http://www.npr.org/2016/08/17/490314062/new-yorker-the-detectives-who-never-forget-a-face), but I recommend the New Yorker original article if you can access it.

    Having an extensive online medical history is another way that we might be helped and saved money by storing information about ourselves.

  22. F Says:

    Neo:

    I had exactly the same thought you did about Nazi Germany about one sentence into you post.

  23. arfldgrs Says:

    The largest early investor to facebook and why it grew so much so far and into everythign was a russian investment firm… kind of makes sense given the owners political proclivities…

    but this face recognition stuff? old hat. they been doing it in the US in lots of places, trains, subways, sports stadiums, etc…

    then there are other such things… been bringing it up for years… Facial recognition technology to help combat sport … – Herald Sun

    and then there is the even cooler/creepier stuff that i was going to participate in when the navy and darpa had a request more than a decade to identify you by how you walk..

    the coolest thing was the call to read iris (eyes) and identiify you from a distance of several football fields and through eye glasss!!!

    The FBI has collected 430,000 iris scans in a so-called ‘pilot program …

    and phones do the scans too…

    Iris Scanner Identifies a Person 40 Feet Away – Seeker

    Long-Range Iris Scanning Is Here – The Atlantic

    ho hum stuff really…
    you cant wake up way deep in this and THEN do sometning.. much easier to wake up and do something when its a tiny seedling, not a huge sequoia..

    Now, given that i work on the cutting edge even if my employer dont, anyone want to know what i have invested in and what i work on? 🙂

    funny people they always seem to come to the party late and then get all uppity when they find out that for decades they been subjected to the crap they dont pay attention to!!!!

    im sorry but from this perspective and after reading for decades its interesting to watch…

    here is a video from CNN
    http://www.cnn.com/videos/tech/2015/04/10/long-range-eye-scanner-technology-orig-mg.cnn

    want to see the micro drones about the size of a large insect that can explode or inject drugs, have cameras, etc.

  24. arfldgrs Says:

    Orwell’s or Huxley’s dystopian fantasies. Now I’m thinking we may be headed towards some hybrid of the two.

    huxleys…

    orwell wrote about what existed and adapted it (soviet union)…

    huxley wrote about his brothers plans and his friends and about what they were doing.

    the hybrid is not a hybrid..

    ie. a dog is not a hybrid of a cow cause they both have four legs, what appears as hybrid is foundational to all forms of that kind of control state

    i think if you go back i tried to put a history of huxley fmaily and his brother and their desire for a socilaist communist league of nations that would eventually be world government… that now is down the block from me for lunch.. the UN…

    which was a great force against the US as most of the most powerful could gang up on her…

    and economically its been gang bang the USA
    redistrubute wealth from wealth states to poor states while making their people dysfunctional and causing self extermination in the dominant group that maintains culture law and so on.

    not to hard..

    the hard part is creating the mentality that the victims have of loving their destryction to the point that they would rather end it under the idea of saving it than actually learn or do a meaningful thing about it.

    but isnt that the point of it?

  25. Tim P Says:

    A follow up on
    AesopFan’s comment above August 2nd, 2017 at 1:26 am.

    panic of the elite Americans who are now trying to drive Trump from office. For those pressing needs include the restriction of competing labour inflows, and ever so liberal Silicon Valley tycoons would be totally lost without their Mexican gardeners, Asian chefs, Filipino childminders, and assorted immigrant dog-walkers and cleaners, along with their Indian programmers under special visas. “

    I would say that it is the last item, the Indian programmers under special visas that is most important by far and away.

    The importation of engineers, programmers and technicians under H1-B visas, purportedly to address an imaginary lack of sufficient American citizens with requisite skills to fill these positions, and which all the high-tech tycoons are in favor of, is nothing less than old fashioned union busting. Only now it’s being done against middle class professionals.

    The outsourcing that really got underway in the 80’s and which subsequently gutted large swaths of American industry, not to mention working class families is now doing the same for the middle class. But it was only a matter of time.

    The IEEE (that’s Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) has been talking about this for years. I recommend this link as a good place to begin.

    This is the real story of the H-1B visa. It is a tool used by companies to avoid hiring American workers, and avoid paying American wages. For every visa used by Google to hire a talented non-American for $126,000, ten Americans are replaced by outsourcing companies paying their H-1B workers $65,000.

    This is why, IEEE-USA opposes efforts to expand the H-1B visa program.

    In contrast, IEEE-USA supports expanding green card programs to make it easier for skilled non-Americans to become American citizens. Unlike H-1B workers, green card holders are paid the same wages as Americans. If not, the green card holders simply quit and find a better paying job—something H-1B workers typically cannot do.

    Green cards and immigration, therefore, build our nation’s skilled labor pool and strengthen our economy, while H-1Bs undermine both.

    Couple this with the recent headlines about Apple removing Apps that would allow Chinese to circumvent internet censorship (this is only the latest example, there are many others), and you see a rich class intent on not only keeping their wealth and power, but on expanding both at any cost. (This is no different than what the ‘brick and mortar’ industries were doing prior to the internet when moving factories abroad. It’s just going higher ladder)

    This expansion of wealth and power is being done at the expense of the working and middle classes. Many of whom clearly see their abandonment for what it is and did what they thought was in their interests, voted for Trump. Was there even another faintly realistic alternative?

    Couple this frenzied greed with the useful idiots of the left who think that the only way to usher in the so-called ‘socialist utopia’ with the brave new world, high-tech nightmare of the information state run amok is by destroying the present economic/societal structure and we indeed have Huxley’s version of the modern totalitarian state, which is coming our way.

    Neo, we are indeed seeing a hybrid of the two you mentioned in your post above.

    Freedom has not been the default condition throughout history. It has been an anomaly, popping up now and then, only to sink under the weight of the decadent mediocrity that follows.

  26. AesopFan Says:

    “Freedom has not been the default condition throughout history. It has been an anomaly, popping up now and then, only to sink under the weight of the decadent mediocrity that follows.”

    Rather like the grandson of a business founder tanking the family fortune.

    The state of the world in the last few decades has much increased my understanding of the rise-and-fall cycles of the Old Testament.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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