Alessandro Acquisti On The New Facial Recognition Software
What have we given up?

The war continues in the fight to protect online privacy and exposure of personal data worldwide. It has become increasingly difficult to combat domestic surveillance of millions of Americans - widespread and untargeted. Carnegie Mellon professor, Allesandro Acquisti, recognizes the shift away from online anonymity that has begun to take place in recent years. Acquisti appeared on TedGlobal 2013 to discuss the smart(er) facial recognition software that can use images anywhere online to access information. He spoke about how the new software now operates on a larger database providing information such as a person’s name, date of birth, and social security number from just one photograph.


Acquisti and his colleagues conducted three experiments using a custom built mobile app. They were able to identify individual profiles from pseudonyms on a dating app, identify students on a college campus with facebook, and conclude that other information could be accessed from the student's online profiles as well. 

An individual’s life and their personal information can be of great value to advertisers and commercial organizations alike. Internet and social media machines aim to create potential customers through targeted niches and traits collected from data via social media.

Acquisti and his research team were able to build a smartphone app that functioned as a biometric computer yielding results and well, worries. In addition to mobile apps and social media, new systems like cloud computing can only enhance the accuracy of facial recognition software online and offline.

“One of the defining fights of our time will be the fight for control over personal information,” Acquisti said during TedGlobal. Are the privacy trade-offs we make online fair or are we getting more than we bargained for? Information at the push of a button seems like a bigger issue in the grand scheme of things.

Read more from Alessandro Acquisti’s TedGlobal Talk here or watch a clip from his exclusive interview with 60 minutes below.