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Big Revolution - When face recognition loses its creepy edge

Welcome to Monday's Big Revolution. Let's dive straight in... – Martin
October 15 · Issue #232 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to Monday’s Big Revolution. Let’s dive straight in…

Big things you need to know today
  • UK military secrets were exposed in 37 separate data security breaches last year, Sky News Reports. It’s not clear if ‘damaging information’ was accessed though. Nation states regularly use cyber espionage against each other, but we don’t often hear about it.
  • has raised a $50m fund. The VC firm is notable for having a podcaster as one of its founders. Harry Stebbings started his investment career by building his network through carrying out flattering interviews with many of the world’s best know venture capitalists on his ‘Twenty Minute VC’ podcast.
The big thought
Credit: Scott Webb on Unsplash
When face recognition loses its creepy edge
In what is becoming a familiar story, it’s emerged that police in the UK ran a secret face recognition scheme in a major shopping centre. The six-month programme at the Trafford Centre in Manchester caught just one criminal – that’s about as ‘successful’ as other similar secret operations we’ve seen around the world lately.
In recent years, we’ve seen other cases like Madison Square Garden in New York, and Download Festival in the UK, where the tech has been tested. The London Metropolitan police has tested it at events like carnivals since 2016. China talks up its use of the tech, even if it probably isn’t as successful as they say.
Take the low success rate and add the 'creepy factor,’ and it’s no real surprise that police and landowners don’t disclose when they trial face recognition.
If you told someone 50 years ago just how many surveillance cameras would track an individual in many developed nations by the early 21st century, they’d be horrified. “It’s Orwellian!,” they’d cry. But now we walk around through city centres perfectly happily, forgetting how many times we’re being watched by staff in security control rooms as we go about our business.
Face recognition tech is only going to become more reliable, and consumer applications of face recognition – like some of the excellent montages Google Photos creates – will gradually soften the public’s spiky opinion of it.
Give it a couple of decades, and a few successful arrests, and what was once scary and intrusive may well just become another law enforcement tool that people grumble about but grudgingly accept as necessary. How much of a bad thing that is depends how healthy the rest of society is. At a time when autocracy is on the rise, there’s certainly reason for concern.
One big read
Groupon CEO Andrew Mason on Its Quick Rise and Faster Fall Groupon CEO Andrew Mason on Its Quick Rise and Faster Fall
Groupon founder Andrew Mason was certainly a notable character on the tech scene a few years ago. Here he reflects on a story of roller coaster ride of epic highs and headline-making lows.
That’s all for today...
See you in your inbox again tomorrow.
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