Technology: How safe and private are your online photos?

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Hoan Ton-That, founder of Clearview AI, shows the results of a search for a photo of himself.

Sips coffee and ask you a simple question. Is your privacy taken care of online? Well, a new study proves otherwise as different companies constantly breach citizen’s privacy using their publicly available data, ranging from facebook, instagram, snapchat etc.

Until recently, one Hoan Toan an Australian techie had created a game like iPhone app that let people put Donald Trump’s distinctive yellow hair on their own photos. But that changed dramatically when he invented a tool that could end your ability to walk down the street anonymously and provided it to hundreds of law enforcement agencies.

It’s yet to be established if this tool is in the hands of the African governments. Ooh boy, they would abuse it!

Toan’s tiny company, Clearview AI, devised a groundbreaking facial recognition app. You take a picture of a person, upload it and get to see public photos of that person along with links to where those photos appeared. The system — whose backbone is a database of more than 3 billion images that Clearview claims to have scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites — goes far beyond anything ever constructed by the U.S. government or Silicon Valley giants.

Until now, technology that readily identifies everyone based on their faces has been taboo because of its radical erosion of privacy. Tech companies capable of releasing such a tool have refrained from doing so.

In 2011, Google’s chairman at the time said it was the one technology the company had held back because it could be used “in a very bad way.”

In the developed world, the Facial recognition technology has been very controversial in the past. It has a tendency to deliver false matches for certain groups, like people of color.

If this tool lands in the wrong officer, he could use it for sinister motives. Say stalk a woman or man he’d seen on the streets and with whom he or she as malicious intentions on.

How do you protect yourself?

Well, there’s no direct way of staying off these apps. But at least you can be vigilant on the content you post online. Change privacy settings on platforms like facebook, instagram and snapchat.

For Facebook, head over to Settings -> Privacy -> Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your Profile? Change this option to NO.

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