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Is Facebook Sabotaging A Face-Recognition Law? (fortune.com) 51

"You know something's up when politicians bring up a bill out of nowhere, and then try to ram it through over Memorial Day weekend," writes Fortune. "That's what's happening in Illinois, where state lawmakers -- allegedly at the behest of Facebook and Google -- are poised to gut a law that limits the use of facial recognition technology." An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this month a judge refused to throw out a class action complaint against Facebook for using facial recognition software to identify people without their permission and then inviting their friends to "tag" them. Now that suit's lawyer says a so-called "Biometric Information Privacy Act" will actually swap in new definitions for "photograph" and "scan" that will apparently shield Facebook and Google from liability.
The Center for Democracy and Technology called the bill "an unnecessary loss of privacy." Google didn't respond to Fortune's request for a comment, and Facebook said only "We appreciate Senator Link's effort to clarify the scope of the law he authored."
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Is Facebook Sabotaging A Face-Recognition Law?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Privately funded. Track his every move, post it to the web in realtime. Telescopic lenses on all windows of his home. ALL the time. Maybe he'll take the hint?

  • How about snapping an ATM-like picture every time you logon to Online Banking... that'll keep the parents out of the kid's bank account.

    • Toss in some FB and Twitter api...

      $ Withdrawing cash. . .
      $ Updating FB Status: Gettin' paper
      $ Updating Twitter: Mad Ballin! #GettinPaper #Cash #Money #BigSpender #Bills
  • Facebook was originally designed to be a repository of photos so people could point to their multiple looks... this is mainly a problem for girls with long hair. Looks like ad dollars steered this project off course... now everybody pick up their selfie sticks and SMS the photos...

  • Mostly because of this invasion of privacy BS. When my family/friends post a picture on FB with me and others in it I don't have a problem with FB identifying those with FB accounts, they asked for it and got it. But me? Just because you somehow got into the DMV database,or a "friend" put a name to my face, or whatever, fuck off. I don't have a FB account, you have no right to identify me via face recognition.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      you have no right to identify me via face recognition.

      then you should take it up with your friend taking illegal photos with you (without a release). but likely you were in a public place where you have no expectation of privacy. you even said it yourself, you do not have a fb account, but your friends are (illegally, remember you never signed a release) publishing photos of you. location of the published photo, whether it is an art gallery in japan titled 'poses of snotnose' or on facebook, does not make it illegal. the person taking a photo is the one to

      • you have no right to identify me via face recognition.

        then you should take it up with your friend taking illegal photos with you (without a release). but likely you were in a public place where you have no expectation of privacy. you even said it yourself, you do not have a fb account, but your friends are (illegally, remember you never signed a release) publishing photos of you. location of the published photo, whether it is an art gallery in japan titled 'poses of snotnose' or on facebook, does not make it illegal. the person taking a photo is the one to blame.

        imagine if your mother went to japan and saw the photo and wrote your name underneath that photo. that's now public information. are you still going to blame the art gallery?

        Now imagine that some stranger that works at the art gallery (in a dark suit and sunglasses, 'cause it's creepier) sees your name sharpied under your photo, then goes through every other photograph that they have access to, including all those drunk frat party photos from the 90s that your asshole friend posted in the gallery for 'lulz' and sharpied your name under all of the ones that have you in them. And they have access to a lot of photos. Like...all of the photos, pretty much.

        How's that? Skin creepi

        • Now imagine that some stranger that works at the art gallery (in a dark suit and sunglasses, 'cause it's creepier) sees your name sharpied under your photo, then goes through every other photograph that they have access to, including all those drunk frat party photos from the 90s

          Well, thank god I was never in a frat, I don't have to worry about people thinking I'm a rapist. If people tagged me in photos that are out there the most incriminating thing you'd find out is that I'm a grower and not a shower.

    • you have no right to identify me via face recognition.

      What if I kept a big book of photographs taken in public places where there is no expectation of privacy and did it by hand, no computers? Would that be OK?

      You are going to stop me, a private individual, from taking pictures in public places, and the - just because I that kind of neurotic guy - suit at home and correlate images with other material publically available on the Intertubs?

      Look, at a certain point, you have to decide if you need to live up 10 miles of dirt road in rural America. Been there, done

      • by pedz ( 4127433 )

        you have no right to identify me via face recognition.

        What if I kept a big book of photographs taken in public places where there is no expectation of privacy and did it by hand, no computers? Would that be OK?

        So far, you have not crossed the line. It depends upon how you use the photographs. Here is the commonly used point that a model release is needed: https://asmp.org/tutorials/fre... [asmp.org] If FB is driving advertisements based upon these photographs, I would say that FB is on shaky ground but I'm sure they have more expensive lawyers than I do. :-)

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )

        What if I kept a big book of photographs taken in public places where there is no expectation of privacy

        It seems there's always an expectation of privacy now, despite there actually being far less. Years ago I used to take a camera to the beach. If I did it now I'd probably get the utter shit beaten out of me or the cops called on me just for having it around my neck. Taking photos in the street isn't much better sometimes.

    • "you have no right" is the bs here. It is legal or not, and your personal offense means nothing.

      Get in touch with your representatives, if that is a thing in your country, or shut up. Feel outnumbered? Then start a Pac or shut up. Union? Movement?

      Or wait, you want to pronounce something on a little read website among the 7 billion people, or 350 million Americans, and have it be sacrosanct? That's not how this works. If you don't pay in blood, and don't pay in sweat, and can't be arsed to pay in dollars, yo

  • Summary is utter BS (Score:3, Informative)

    by raymorris ( 2726007 ) on Saturday May 28, 2016 @06:40PM (#52203023) Journal

    The summary is complete bull. Here is the primary change bring made to the law. It used to say:

            Biometric identifiers do not include writing samples, written signatures, photographs

    They are trying to update it to say:

            Biometric identifiers do not include writing samples, written signatures, physical or digital photographs

    In other words, they are clarifying that yes, a digital photo is a photo. The amendment also has wording stating that this is clarifying, not changing the law - that digital photographs were photographs last week too.

    Here's the full text of the amendment. Underlined words are the words being added, words crossed out are being deleted.

    http://www.ilga.gov/legislatio... [ilga.gov]

    • by SeattleLawGuy ( 4561077 ) on Saturday May 28, 2016 @08:22PM (#52203317)

      But that is not the only update. You have to follow the references.

      They update the law to define scan as being something that "means data resulting from an in-person process whereby a part of the body is traversed by a detector or an electronic beam."

      But "Biometric identifier" means a retina or iris scan, fingerprint, voiceprint, or scan of hand or face geometry. The definition also explicitly excludes photographs, and with the update clarifies that it excludes physical and digital photographs.

      The New version of the law then changes the definition of "biometric identifier" so that it cannot include information derived from anything explicitly excluded from these "biometric identifiers."

      So if you can derive biometric identifiers (such as a scan of face geometry before they change the definition of scan) from a photograph, it is no longer covered under the proposed law.

    • by golodh ( 893453 ) on Sunday May 29, 2016 @07:00AM (#52204805)
      @RayMorris

      Sorry but you're completely wrong and I take particular offense at your use of weasel-words like "clarify". The law is _not_ being "clarified", it's being altered.

      The article's summary is perfectly accurate in that it states that the proposed changes are aimed at allowing Facebook and Google to identify people from any online photographs they may get their hands on.

      The changes in the wording of the law (that you so helpfully posted, thanks for that) do precisely that by (1) excluding photographs of any kind from the definition of "biometric information" and narrowing down the definition a "scan" to a procedure that physically passes a sensor over any part of your body.

      The language of the law still prohibits me from scanning your retina or your fingerprints (than handy scanner in your mobile phone) and using that to identify you online. As in: ""Biometric identifier" means a retina or iris scan, fingerprint, voiceprint, or scan of hand or face geometry."

      However it clearly allows anyone to scan photographs (one or more) of your face, use facial recognition software on that or even do a 3-D reconstruction job to make a 3-D model of your head, and use that to identify you online.

      The only thing you need to do to understand that is to read the law from the point of view of Google or Facebook and ask: "Will this law prevent me from ID'ing everyone online we can get a picture of?".

      The answer is a clear "No, this (amended) law will not prevent me from ID'ing people online based on scanning and analysing their photographs !".

      • Thanks for your thoughtful post. After reading it, I double-checked the amendment to see if you saw something I missed. Central to your point, I think, is your statement:

        > excluding photographs of any kind from the definition of "biometric information"

        I don't see where the amendment makes ANY change to the definition of "biometric information". The lines are helpfully numbered, perhaps you can point out where you see that?

        I do see where three words were inserted into the definition of "biometric ident

        • by golodh ( 893453 )
          @RayMorris

          Suppose your buddy takes a photograph with you and him in it. Scans it if it's a physical photograph, and uploads it to Google or Facebook who run it through face-recognition software that measures your face and extracts your facial features, store it in a database, and then use those features to identify you in each and very photograph they get.

          Let's examine your position under the pre-amendment law and the amended law.

          In the pre-amendment version, "photographs" (physical ones) aren't "biom

          • You have a point, there is a new bit. The additional wording stating that not only are photographs not included under the statute, but neither are analyses of photographs, is new. Not necessarily a huge change - the old wording could have been interpreted the same way, but it is a change. Good point.

            Your position that the categorization of "photographs" was changed is based on the premise that last week "photograph" meant on analog photos printed on paper? That's an interesting theory. Perhaps you're thinki

            • by golodh ( 893453 )
              @RayMorris

              Perhaps I was too rash to attribute meaning to the precise definition of "photograph". As I think of it now, the redefinition of "scan" looks much more meaningful.

              However, from a practical point of view I think there is a marked difference between the amended and un-amended version of the law.

              The un-amended version of the law seems to offer me some protection against Google and Facenook extracting facial information from photographs without my consent, putting that into their databases, and

  • Argument or abuse? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by argumentsockpuppet ( 4374943 ) on Saturday May 28, 2016 @08:46PM (#52203393)

    In the US, this is an issue tied closely to freedom of the press. When you restrict the rights of the press, you potentially enable abuse which is why it was important enough to be included in the bill of rights.

    In modern usage, the freedom of the press includes the rights to take photographs and use them in ways that make other people unhappy.

    There are reasonable restrictions placed on that freedom as with all the other freedoms spelled out in the bill of rights. You don't have a right to take photographs on private property when the owner says you can't. You don't have the right to take photographs of people in settings where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as restrooms. While you do have the right to take a picture from the public sidewalk of what you see through the open window of someone's home, you don't have that right if they have blinds intended to prevent it.

    This means you can take pictures of your mayor smoking crack so long as he's not doing it in his house with the blinds drawn. You can take pictures of protesters and parades without needing to get waivers from everyone photographed. The reason you can watch News Years celebrations in Central Park is because the freedom to photograph and even video those people, even live, without getting waivers is protected by the bill of rights.

    You have the right to do this too, whether you're a journalist or not, because journalism doesn't rely on a government agency to approve who gets to be a journalist or not. This is also critical to preventing abuse.

    The upshot of all this is that you have the right to take photographs and video without consent and use those photos and videos however you like with only a few reasonable restrictions.

    In Illinois they decided the state has the right to restrict the freedom to use pictures and videos in certain ways. It's not unusual for states to restrict freedoms within their borders in order to maintain the balance of freedoms between different people, and it isn't necessarily a problem. In most cases the states are careful to craft any laws, particularly those that restrict freedoms guaranteed by the bill of rights, very carefully so that the law won't be invalidated by the federal courts.

    I think this law is bound to eventually be invalidated by federal courts. Some public figure will be photographed doing something shady and the photograph will be correlated to the figure by biometric algorithms. When that happens, the public figure will try to shut down the story using this law and journalists will prevail in the courts because of the protections of the bill of rights.

    Eventually we will have to accept that being photographed in public and having computers organize, sort and assist us with those pictures is something that cannot be prevented without compromising the basic rights that support our legislative system.

    Whether we will decide that the protections of a free press or our privacy is more important in the long run is something that worries me. Americans are all too often more interested in their comfort than their freedom and that trend worries me.

    • That's a very thoughtful post. Some clarification might be helpful regarding this sentence:

      > In Illinois they decided the state has the right to restrict the freedom to use pictures

      Here's the old text of the law:

      Biometric identifiers do not include writing samples, written signatures, photographs

      Here's the new text:

      Biometric identifiers do not include writing samples, written signatures, physical or digital phot

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Saturday May 28, 2016 @08:55PM (#52203451)
    Facial recognition is quite simply put the worst privacy invasion in the entire set of privacy invasion tools. Tools like google glass, driverless car cameras, uploaded photos, or any one of dozens of video data sources that directly feed into one of the large companies' data stores pose a huge problem for everyone's privacy. It doesn't need to be big brother with cameras everywhere to put a very good picture of everyones' lives. If you only pass a few of these cameras a week it can still put together a very solid picture of your life, where you go to school, where you work, who you hang out with, etc.

    For instance today I was sitting in a park with my wife when a Chinese dragon dance occurred, the dragons came right up to where I was sitting with dozens of people snapping away. Needless to say some of those pictures went up to one of the facebooks, googles, etc. We were carrying brand name bags from some shopping. Thus a great image recognition program could put my wife and I together, at the market, in our city, and what shopping we did today.

    These companies won't be content with just this, they will want more and more data, thus will probably partner with speed camera companies, security companies, stores, etc. But the icing on the cake will be driverless car cameras and delivery drone cameras; those data feeds will put us on camera multiple times per day.

    With this sort of data, there is no organizing anonymous political dissent, there is no undercover journalism, there is no privacy.

    I want laws to swing hard against this. Quite simply, I want it to be illegal to gather data on people without there consent. Full stop. By gather, I don't mean to store, but to have any ability to aggrigate a picture larger than the individual pieces. Also I want a law that says data gathered for an obvious purpose cannot be used for any other purpose. Thus my phone company can have my mailing address, but there is no sharing that with "trusted third parties". My driver's licence can't be accessed by any government employee beyond the proof that I can drive. If I deal with one company they can't even share my data with sibling companies.

    In Europe, they have the right to be forgotten, I want the right to not even be known. Thus if any company or organization has my information without a warrant from a judge, and I didn't give it to them, I want people going to jail along with ruinous fines. So if I terminate my phone, the company has to erase every trace that I existed. If I cross a bridge and have a pass card, they can deduct my account, but not record the time or place of my crossing. If I make a phone call on an unlimited plan then there is no need to record my minutes or who I called. I want any data that can't be wildly justified to be erased.

    Now some companies will argue that in the event of a billing dispute that these records are nessary. Thus one caveat could be added. They can keep the records until I phone them and say, "I am in agreement with your up to date billing. Delete all my records." In the case of a phone company this would pretty much clear out any record I had with them short of the minimum details required to keep my service active. This would include how long I had been a customer.

    Quite simply using technologies such as Machine Learning these companies are abusing us more and more. We need to turn this 180 degrees and make it wildly illegal for them to mine any data we did not consent to.

    And just to cover a loophole. Make it illegal for anyone to be able to offer an inducement to gather your data. So the phone company can't say our phone plan is $200 per month with a $160 discount if you give up your privacy.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm against laws prohibiting facial recognition unless they're explicitly targeted at the government or otherwise include the government. What will happen if this law is passed is that it will be used against activists rather than protecting the rights of the people not to be searched and prodded without warrant. The people should have the right to utilize face recognition technology to protect themselves from the state and the police/government should not.

  • Why should facial recognition and scanning be illegal? You don't have the right not be recognized in public if you put your picture on the internet for everyone to see. If you have a problem with being recognized, then don't show your face. Wear a ninja outfit (as it is called in Japan) or burka (as it is called in the middle east).

    It cannot be made illegal for people to use facial recognition software. I mean, it could be useful to blind people for example. But that aside, if you put your photos in public

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The problem is: what if other people put pictures online with you in them, while you don't even have a FaceBook account?

      Indeed, if you post all sorts of information about yourself online, then you shouldn't complain if those companies, providing that "free" service, take advantage of them in all sorts of ways. But if you appear in a picture that someone else took and posted on the internet, and FaceBook can automatically reconstruct where you were at what time based on those photos, that's a different matte

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