by Nicholas West, Activist Post:
Amid the ongoing Facebook/Cambridge Analytica debacle over their general surveillance and misuse of users’ private data, there is an emerging trend that is infinitely more disturbing.
The first story popped up in the UK yesterday where police admitted to using a photo sent through WhatsApp to cull fingerprints for evidence that successfully led to the conviction of 11 individuals for drug crimes. The story further revealed that this was not just a special-use case; apparently it is a technique that has been developed specifically to use the vast amount of public photos available to extract evidence from images that have been posted or transmitted online.
As reported by Dawn Luger for The Daily Sheeple, this new technique is being rolled out and law enforcement is calling it “groundbreaking,” as it can pull information from even partial photos:
It all started with a drug bust. The bust resulted in the police getting hold of a phone that had a WhatsApp message and image of ecstasy pills in a person’s palm. The message read: “For sale – Skype and Ikea-branded ecstasy pills…are you interested?”
The phone was sent to South Wales Police where the photo showing the middle and bottom portion of a pinky was enhanced.
“Despite being provided with only a very small section of the fingerprint which was visible in the photograph, the team were able to successfully identify the individual,” said Dave Thomas, forensic operations manager at the Scientific Support Unit.
No specifics were actually given by the police department about this “pioneering fingerprint technique,” but it is quite clear that this is a tool they are ready and willing to use.
Meanwhile, intrusions from Facebook are compounding in the wake of a massive lawsuit sparked by revelations that Facebook appears to be using facial recognition information for much more than just tagging people in your private social circle. The multi-billion dollar lawsuit was just given the go-ahead by an Illinois judge and illustrates the scope of what Facebook retains about people, how they are willing to distribute it, and the lack of safeguards against outside violations:
The class of users approved by Donato dates back to June 2011, when Facebook had an Illinois user base of more than 6 million people, according to lawyers for the plaintiffs. “Although many individuals may not have had enough tagged photos to generate a face template in Facebook’s database, in January 2011 (i.e., before Facebook implemented tag suggestions for all users) the average user was tagged in 53 photos, far more than the 10 needed to generate a face template,” according to a December court filing.
Privacy advocates have said the billions of images Facebook is thought to be collecting could be even more valuable to identity thieves than the names, addresses, and credit card numbers now targeted by hackers. While those types of information are mutable — even Social Security numbers can be changed — biometric data for retinas, fingerprints, hands, face geometry and blood samples are unique identifiers.
And yet, it’s not only hackers and social media companies that have found this data to be irresistible. According to a new report in Forbes, former military intelligence operatives are also creating their own databases from publicly available biometric information.