Can Facebook Pictures Expose Too Much Personal Information

Facial recognition software could now be used to find out personal information about you just by applying it to your Facebook photos.

A team at Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University was able to use facial recognition software available online to match photos of people taken on mobile phones to their Facebook photos, names, social security numbers, date of birth, and place of residence, according to CNN.

The team was led by Professor Alessandro Acquisti who demonstrated the technology at the Black Hat cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas on Thursday.

“Your face is a conduit between the online and offline world,” said Acquisti. “Soon, anyone may run face recognition anywhere. It raises the issue of what privacy will mean”

Facial recognition technology is improving rapidly with Facebook, Apple and Google all recently purchasing facial recognition tools that allow people to tag one person in a photo and have the software automatically find that person in all other photos.

According to Facebook, a site that now has 750 million accounts, users posted an average of 2.5 billion photos a month last year.

“Facebook is becoming a de facto database of unregulated Real IDs,” said Acquisti.

In a 2009 study by Heinz College, Facebook users were commonly found to put information such as age, gender, birthday and place of residence. This data could potentially allow someone to guess the user’s Social Security numbers with a high degree of certainty.

In another experiment conducted by the group at Heinz more recently, they were able to match a person’s face in a photo with the subject’s social security number within four guesses 28 percent of the time.

This type of technology can be unnerving, but reports suggest the technology is not perfected yet and it usually works best with a clean, full frontal photograph which are sometimes hard to attain.

Germany’s data protection supervisor asked Facebook this week to disable its facial recognition software, claiming it violated privacy laws.

But according to Acquisti, this technology will become a lot more common in the future.

“Facial recognition of everyone, everywhere, at anytime is not yet reality, however this is where we are going,” he said. “We better be prepared.”

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