Saturday, April 16, 2011

Big Brother is Watching… Or He May be Soon

My wife and I started watching the first half of The Bourne Ultimatum the other night. In our early old age we’ve discovered that it is easier to watch a movie spread over two nights than it is to watch it all at once. Pass the prune juice!

One of the things I noted was just how absurdly sophisticated the technology in the movie was. At the beginning of the movie, the CIA just happens to be able to monitor cell phone conversations in London’s Heathrow Airport and one word comes up: Blackbriar. Since that was the name of the covert operation that started it all with Jason Bourne, the CIA investigates and finds out a certain reporter for The Guardian has stumbled across a dangerous secret.

Really? The CIA has microphones or sensors that it can actually do voice recognition on virtually any cell phone in an airport looking for key words like “Blackbriar”? Wouldn’t it have been better to be listening for something like “underwear bomb”?

I wouldn’t be surprised if the U.S. was capable of tapping into cellular signals and listening in on conversations, but to do voice recognition on an unimaginable number of cell phones and conversations all taking place at once is a little far-fetched.

But not everything in the spy movies is far-fetched. On Thursday I saw an article on CNN about Google Goggles. The technology allows you to take a picture of something with your phone and then search for it on the internet. Although the technology is severely limited at this time, it can recognize important landmarks and other items. Engineers expect that within a decade they will have the system to near perfection. That’s when it gets scary.

One application they are seeking to perfect is face recognition. Though movies and novels have suggested Kinect-like sensors being able to identify any person in the future, it hasn’t been a reality. And just like The Minority Report, such technology would allow for personalized advertising and constant surveillance.

Already there is an application on Facebook that uses facial recognition to tag photos automatically based on other photo tags. Were that technology to proliferate, not even Jason Bourne could hide for long in an urban center.

Privacy is vastly being redefined in this age of technology. Are we considering the morality of that?

1 comment:

avidetich said...

Strange- I just posted pictures of our trip to Mexico and facebook used this technology to help me tag pictures. That was my first exposure...