The Thursday afternoon broadcast of NPR's Planet Money discussed government grants funding technological research. A Carnegie Mellon researcher has been developing facial recognition software the past 10 years, which reveals a person's identity by matching a photograph to a database compiled with Facebook profile information and other social networking information. The software can identify name, age, where you were born, and Social Security Number.

"For the study, the Carnegie Mellon team used software from Pittsburg Pattern Recognition, or PittPat. Google bought that company last month. The software can recognize faces in photos and videos." This goes to show the progress technology has moved toward or is currently at the onset of the Orwellian future Morville painted in chapter 4: Intertwingled. Moving forward, wayfinding and findable objects will improve due to this technology, but at what expense? And what freedoms do we give up? Or what do we gain? The PittPat software developer said he has no intention of releasing the software to the public, but I can see costs and benefits of ubiquitous software implementation. Specifically in the near future, we may be able to go through airport security while shoes remain on our feet.

Government officials, police officers, etc., have access to criminal databases and means to run background checks. Court records are in the public domain and records are public knowledge. All one has to do is access a county court website and search by Last Name. Facial recognition will help police officers do their job more efficiently. Medical records are stored in hospital databases and are currently undergoing a reform where information is becoming centralized and records are accessible to all hospitals.

"However, this technology will also very likely be used in greater capacity in the commercial sector to further target consumers for advertising and discriminatory pricing purposes."

Online retailers, marketing agencies, search engines, etc. already track browsing history. Online advertisements target audiences through cookies and browsing history. Ever noticed how LL Bean seems to always have an advertisement on your favorite blog after visiting their webstore? Credit card companies have detailed information on purchases. Cell phone providers have records of text messages, phone calls, and call history. Network service providers have records of instant messenger conversations, emails, and web activity.

It is evident that privacy rights have been abandoned, knowingly or unknowingly, online online . The most biggest publicized offender? Facebook. So, why are 750 million active Facebook users still under the impression that their lives are private?

It seems to me that both Generation X and Y have already made it clear that when it comes to privacy that they are open to freedom of information. The Baby Boomers are the last remaining generation that has a choice to remain anonymous.

AuthorDavid Brahler