Face-recognition has reached your smart phone, bringing science fiction closer and also (I expect) a storm of controversy.
Nametag, an upcoming app for Android, iOS, and Google Glass, will allow you to photograph strangers and find out who they are -- complete with social networking and online dating profiles. Snap and send a pic to NameTag's server, where it will compare the photo to millions of online records and return with a name, more photos, and social-media profiles, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, where the person (or their friends) might have publicly posted photos of themselves. In the U.S., Nametag will also match the photo against more than 450,000 entries in the National Sex Offender Registry and other criminal databases.
There is already some discussion of the blatant privacy concerns… and one can see why Google has banned this capability (officially) from its very cautious "Glass" endeavor in wearable augmented reality, preferring to let these frontiers be probed by smaller, expendable companies.
Still, expect a huge row over this trend, along with campaigns to outlaw face-recog on the streets. As forecast in The Transparent Society (1997) it will be a nexus of confrontation between two very different approaches to preserving privacy and freedom, and you can be sure the "let's all hide!" reflex will start to win, at first…
…until it becomes clear. That the "let's all hide!" approach simply won't work. And if it did, we would only empower our new masters.
== Repelling Big Brother ==
In "How to Defeat Big Brother," on Salon Magazine, Andrew Leonard posits that "In 2013, we learned the terrifying scope of modern surveillance. Now it's time to fight back."
In fact, Leonard appears to be among the few who actually get what it's all about.
"The Panopticon doesn’t work if we watch the watchers back. Knowing exactly how we are being surveilled is the set-up for a prison break," he writes in a worthy rumination… though alas without proper attribution for who's been spreading that lonely meme for almost 20 years.
Another fellow who gets it… here's a link to Professor Arnold Kling's review of The Transparent Society, revealing genuine depth and perceptiveness.
== The Real Trends toward Transparency ==
Open Data and Transparency: A Look back at 2013: Was this the year that "transparency" came into its own? In this year-end review, we learn of progress in some nations, while others cling tenaciously to old, corruption-prone ways.
I described this to the cypherpunks way back in 1996… that encryption could be broken by spies and cops in a plethora of old and new-fashioned ways… such as the different sounds that each of the keys on your keyboard make. By all means, learn and improve your security. But anyone who calls encryption a panacea is a religious fanatic.
Oh, but it gets much worse. "Thanks to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, we already knew the NSA played a central role in promoting a flawed formula for generating random numbers, which if used in encryption, essentially gives the spies easy access to computing systems. A piece of RSA software, bSafe, became the most significant vector for the security flaw. The encryption tools which hundreds of millions of people rely on to protect the private information are significantly weaker as a result." Now it seems that the NSA bribed the security firm RSA (who deny this, vehemently) to leave the back door to computers all over the world open.
And wow. Reports suggest that the NSA, in collaboration with the CIA and FBI, routinely and secretly intercepts shipping deliveries for laptops or other computer accessories in order to implant bugs before they reach their destinations. There is only one way to control this.
== On the other hand… ==
SnapChat and the Future of an Erasable Internet: My transparency-related panel interview on NPR's show "To The Point" (KCRW) on January 3, 2014, started with a discussion of SnapChat - the latest craze among the kids - and whether we are moving to an era when the Internet's voracious memory can be put on a diet. Other panelists? Tech columnist Farhad Manjoo recently wrote about the prospect of a more erasable Internet.
Jennifer Golbeck, Director of the Human-Computer Interaction Center at Univ. of Maryland spoke about social networks: Analyzing the Social Web.
Victor Mayer-Shoenberger who has written about the dangers of Big Data, warned of both up & downsides. (See his book: Big Data: A Revolution that will transform how we live,work and think.)
Ah but… a new application, SnapHack Pro, for sale on the iOS App Store, allows users to log in using their SnapChat credentials and send and receive Snaps. The difference: all images opened and viewed in SnapHack are permanent. Ah well. And you ever, every believed otherwise?
Dig-it. I wholly approve of this SnapChat innovation as a tool to send self-erasing blips and snaps. As a convenience for conveying brief-then-gone glimpses of hair-mussed, face-grimaced little fun-stupid things to pals? When being 98% sure it's truly gone is assurance-enough? Terrific! …
...so long as you never base your safety or future upon it.
...so long as you never base your safety or future upon it.
More on SnapChat: is is really as ephemeral as it promises?
== And then it gets weird. ==
Talking Train Windows: Trains deliver ads directly into your head: The German branch of ad company BBDO has tested a form of bone conduction technology on a train between Munich and North Rhine-Westphalia. When a commuters rest their heads against a window, hoping to catch a few winks before getting to their destination, ads which were previously inaudible suddenly begin playing inside their heads… via bone-sonic induction through the glass.
== Innovations! ==
The Washington Post offers a run-down on ten trends and concepts of 2013 that seemed to have the most staying power for the year ahead. Most of which you saw discussed here.
The Occulus Rift finally brings VR gaming in 3D into our age. And there are other approaches ripening, such as Technical Illusions. Notice that both go for the full immersion AR approach, which Google Glass deliberately avoids. And for good reason. A major corporation does not want to face juries when folks (during the transition decade) step off curbs in front of cars. Which will happen until some of the adaptations and adjustments that I talk about in both Earth and Existence.
See this taken to the extreme in "NatuLife", which you can find in my collection, Otherness.
The $100 laptop is so 2010, The $38 tablet is today. Yes a $38 tablet.
And for your smart phone, TellSpec a $250 handheld laser spectrometer will analyze food, scanning for allergens, calories, contaminants in your meal.
A terrific writeup on Bill Nye… formerly "the science guy" and now my colleague and president of The Planetary Society. And on February 4, the amiable debater against anti-scienceism at the Ohio Creation Museum!
Go get-em Bill. Stand up for science, enlightenment and triple digit IQs.
And finally….. is government all-bad? Play DARPA's web games at Verigames to crowdsource and help find software vulnerabilities. The site’s five games are designed so that when users solve puzzles to advance to the next level of play, they are actually generating mathematical proofs that can identify software flaws that cyberattacks could exploit. Alas, good-guy agencies like DARPA may suffer for the excesses of certain others that have inveigled their way into game worlds like World of Warcraft for reasons of espionage.