These advances have huge implications for our privacy, since we now document our lives with so many pictures. Facebook alone already has over 200 billion photos. So far this hasn’t had a massive impact on privacy because there’s been no good way to search and analyze those pictures, but advances in image recognition are changing all that. It’s now possible to not only reliably spot you in photos, but also tell what you’re doing. Creating an algorithm to spot common objects, whether they’re bikes or bongs, is now so easy. Imagine all your photos being processed into a data profile for advertisers or law enforcement, showing how much you party, who you’re with, and which demonstrations you attended.
You might think this is science fiction, but the mayor of Peoria managed to justify a raid on the apartment of a critic by citing a Twitter photo appearing to depict cocaine. Police departments across the country monitor YouTube videos that gang members upload of themselves threatening rivals and posing with guns. Right now, this is done manually, but it could be taken much further with easy-to-use object recognition software.
All of us have become used to uploading photos and videos safe in the knowledge that we have privacy through obscurity, but as data-mining images becomes easy, they could come back to haunt us.
Even if you delete your Facebook account, or never had one, Facebook can still find out a lot about you.