Is Big Brother watching us?

November 8, 2018

Today I heard news of Microsoft’s president stating that we need to regulate facial recognition software before the year 2024 looks like the George Orwell book, 1984.

For anyone that doesn’t know, the 1949 book is a dystopian novel about how the majority of the world’s population being victims of government surveillance, among other propaganda.

Anyone who has a fairly recent iPhone or Android handset will know that facial recognition (FR) technology is here. We use it to unlock our phones, access our bank accounts, and change our appearance in SnapChat.

But could CCTV be using FR software to track our movements?

Granted, the software is fairly new. But we know very well the rate of change is increasing. In fact, I read a worrying comment from a Reddit user who works in surveillance.

In response to another comment, 6ft5notarapist said: “I work in the surveillance industry and enjoyed this comment. The software is getting there.. fast”

Just reading this comment made my skin crawl. It implies that the surveillance industry is actually working to incorporate facial recognition software into commercial cameras. And without laws or regulations in place, it could already be happening without our consent!

In fact, China has already implemented advanced facial recognition technology to identify criminals in crowded places. And even here in the UK, South Wales Police have used facial recognition to identify potential troublemakers at football matches.

Aside from catching criminals, Amazon are also using surveillance technology in their new Amazon Go stores – the concept is a till and cashier free shopping experience. You walk in, pick up the products you need, put them in your bag and walk out. Of course, they’re not allowing customers to shoplift, they are tracking their every movement with hundreds of cameras.

However, Amazon claim their Go stores don’t use facial recognition. If not now though, why not in the future? Why would they pass by an opportunity to target their advertising even further?!

While the primary use may be to catch criminals faster and monitor our shopping habits for advertising purposes, I still believe using this ‘facial data’ without our consent is a huge violation of privacy.

If the software got into the wrong hands (or the wrong government), we could be living the dystopian future that George Orwell predicted – only forty years later than he thought.