Help! Facebook is using my smartphone camera to stalk me!
This creepy scenario may be a reality someday soon.
It seems like every week there is a news story about some new, shameless technology that Facebook has invented for tracking and identifying people online. As a result, Mark Zuckerberg is starting to look like some sinister villain from a James Bond movie.
Facebook’s use of facial recognition technology to identify people by name in online photos is well known. However, their latest plan for identifying people online is a system that can assign a unique “fingerprint” to your digital camera and recognize any and all online photos that are taken with it.
Facebook filed for a patent at the beginning of the year for technology that can identify a person based on the unique characteristics associated with the digital camera on their smartphone. This identification method looks at flaws in photos to detect things like defects on the camera lens such as dust and scratches, color bleeding, pixels in photos that are out of place as well as other image characteristics and anomalies that show up in photos posted online.
In the patent filing, Facebook describes technology for “associating cameras with users and objects in a social networking system.”
In other words, Facebook’s system will analyze photos that are uploaded to their social network and determine the exact camera they were photographed with, and then use this information to identify the person who owns the camera.
Facebook’s new system will go way beyond using standard metadata in digital image files like date and time stamps, camera model and GPS location data to track and identify the user. This new system will use defects in the images themselves that occur due to physical flaws in the digital camera to uniquely identify the camera and its user.
Technology like this could identify the user of a camera even if all the metadata was removed from the photo and even if the photo did not include any identifiable faces, locations or objects.
Facebook hopes to use this unique information from a person’s pictures along with their databases of personal and location information to determine the camera and the person who is “behind” a given photo.
This ID technology might not be as foolproof as a person’s actual fingerprint, but when used along with facial recognition, location information and other personal information it could be a powerful piece of the identification and profile puzzle that Facebook is constantly piecing together about people.
In their patent filing, Facebook tries to gloss over privacy concerns by saying this new identification technology could be used to identify people who are using fake, fraudulent or multiple accounts on their social network.
This system could also be used to show relations between people who post photos taken with the same camera to different online user profiles.
In addition, Facebook could potentially start crawling and indexing photos on other, social networks, online dating sites and communities to recognize photos that were taken with your camera, including any compromising photos that people have posted online.
So far, Facebook’s new ID tool doesn’t appear to have been put into use by the social network yet. However, this new camera stalking system might not be far off.