I was, in equal measures, horrified and amazed at the accuracy of Google’s image search. For those of you that don’t know, you can upload an image to Google and search by that image! And the results are quite astounding. If it’s a common photograph online, it will show you sites that host that photograph, as well as images of similar colour makeup, shape etc. If it’s less common it will still show you any matches it finds, and similar photos.
Right now the search algorithm they are using is adequate and the general make up of the photos it returns are similar. Pretty fun right? The really scary thing for me is the speed that this will advance. Apple’s iPhoto has a facial recognition feature (supposedly Facebook will, or have released something similar already) that with a little training will tell you who the people in your photos are.
It’s not a giant leap to say that very soon I will be able to upload anyone’s photo and Google will send me results showing every photo that it has access to of that person. I think that is very scary! Sure your privacy settings on Facebook, Google+ and the like are secure, all your photos in Hotmail (who still uses?) and on Photobucket and Flikr are private due to your diligence in reading through Terms and Conditions and making sure they are not for general consumption.
But maybe you have Tweeted some images. And maybe a friend you shared with securely went on to re-share a few photos with a few more people. Or maybe you have mailed a few of had photos taken in a club that appear on a website. Hell maybe it’s more than a few.
What I’m getting at is that as this digital age progresses we are less and less in control of our digital footprint, our online presence. Apple announced photo stream with their latest incantation of iOS. It’s a small ‘yes or no’ option that uploads EVERY photo you take with your iPhone to iCloud. Cameras and video devices will follow suit in time.
This worries me greatly because as the volume increases and as people capture your image with their devices, you will not have control of the distribution of these images. If you are good looking you may end up on a cosmetics advert from a photo on a stock site. If you are not you may end up in an image for skin cream or as the antihero in a comical piece.
There are more dire circumstances too. You go for an interview, the interviewer snaps an image of you and that video of you at your friends bachelors party dancing with the… erm… entertainment pops up. I think that it’s going to be much harder to control your image online than it is to control the content you appear in by name.
I know most of this can be dismissed as conspiracy theory, but go to google.com/images , click on the little camera in the search bar and search from a photo, maybe one in which you are… maybe you will be shocked.
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