If You Think Alexa Is Worrying …

… then consider this …

Some considerable number of years ago, this chap…devised a direct-mail fundraiser for an AIDS-assistance charity that was, unusually, profitable on first mailing. Its success was due to a search algorithm, applied to publicly-available data, that identified likely male gay couples living together.

The beneficiaries closed the project down, immediately. And in the uncertain social/legal climate of the times, it was, and remains, hard to fault their decision.

So, suffice to say ‘rattled’ comes to mind, as he read that image recognition has progressed to the point that it can produce equivalent results just from video of people in public places. ID a ‘dressy’ restaurant, to go in the ‘Near You’ search results? OK… ID a place where a lot of men are hanging out, who may be gay? Well…. In Tehran? Oh. But, wait, couldn’t that be…

Several years ago, a small tech company called Jetpac identified and categorised the content of 150 million photos posted publicly on Instagram to build a directory of businesses searchable by their characteristics. If the photos taken at a restaurant showed a lot of mouths wearing lipstick, Jetpac’s app would tag the spot as “dressy.” If most of the faces in a photo of a bar were male, it would tag the spot as a gay bar. (Jetpac was acquired by Google in 2014.)

How about analysing facial features, backed by fingerprints, Continue reading “If You Think Alexa Is Worrying …”

It Looks Innocent Enough Doesn’t It?

John saw an article a few weeks ago ….

… literally gushing with enthusiasm about The Wynn Hotel in Vegas installing an Amazon Echo in every room. I wasn’t so enthused. Imagine someone stationed in your room, 24*7 jumping up to your every instruction … “James-open the drapes”, “James – get me some coffee”, “James – put on Fox News” – ok – just checking – nobody would ever say that – would they?

Turns out someone at Wynn thought it would be a great idea to replace ‘James’ with ‘Alexa’ … “Alexa -open the drapes”, “Alexa – get me some coffee” .. you get the drift.

Continue reading “It Looks Innocent Enough Doesn’t It?”