LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Have you posted a picture of yourself from 10 years ago, side by side with a picture of you today? It's a thing that's popular on Facebook and Instagram at the moment. And our next guest says that you should think twice before joining in on things like the 10-year challenge. Kate O'Neill explained her opinion on wired.com. She's an author and tech consultant. And she joins us now from New York. Welcome.
KATE O'NEILL: Thank you.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: So we should be clear Facebook says it didn't start this meme and that people are using photos already on Facebook. But you're saying it's more about how people should think about the potential for misuse.
O'NEILL: Yeah, exactly. The particular scenario I talked about in my Wired article was the potential that someone could mine that data and use it to train a facial recognition algorithm.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: What makes you really nervous, though, about facial recognition technology in particular?
O'NEILL: Yeah, and I mentioned three types of scenarios. One I described as benign. And that's the scenario where, you know, it could be used to help with recognizing the progression of age in children who have been lost. So the police in New Delhi, India had used facial recognition technology in an experiment for just four days. And they recognized 3,000 kids who were missing. But the more mundane scenario and the more common scenario is advertising.
More than likely, this will become commonplace where displays can have some sort of camera or sensor that can recognize visual characteristics and serve up a more relevant ad, which will be better performing for the business who's advertising, which is potentially good, too, for us as as consumers - that we'll see more relevant messaging. But then as that data kind of blends with everything else that's downstream from that - all the location data, all of our movements and tracking through the world, all of our financial information, everything that's out there about us - that does start to pose, I think, some risky consequences.
And then there was one last scenario that I had talked about, which was the potential that the facial recognition, in particular age progression types of uses of facial recognition, could be used to, say, assess your risk for health characteristics and could say, maybe you're not a good candidate for health insurance.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's so hard, though, right? Because I see those memes pop up. And I'm like, oh. This is fun. Look at those pictures. It's so funny. Let me go - I was, in fact, just looking back at my Facebook pictures from 2008 and 2009 because I was like, oh, wow. I'd forgotten that happened. And yet we're having to learn how to protect ourselves more.
O'NEILL: You're right. And it is - and I absolutely want us to have fun. And I want us to connect with each other. And I think that's what the benefit of technology is. So, yeah - let's participate. Let's have fun. Let's communicate, stay connected with our friends and family. But I think one note of caution is we can look out for opportunities when we're being encouraged to tag photos of ourselves. That's one way we can opt out and maybe not always tag every photo with every face. We can not necessarily participate in every game or meme that asks us to provide data about ourselves in structured, specific ways.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm assuming that you didn't do the 10-year challenge.
O'NEILL: Well, my 10-year challenge response was the one that - that was the tweet that kind of started the whole thing that said, you know, 10 years ago, I probably would have participated and shared my photos. And now I look at it as an opportunity for harvesting all that data for a facial recognition training process.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Kate O'Neill. She's the author most recently of the book "Tech Humanist." Thank you so much.
O'NEILL: Thank you.
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