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Privacy in the Age of Augmented Reality

I will present the results, and discuss the social and economic implications, of a series of experiments combining publicly available data with off-the-shelf face recognition applications for the purpose of automated, large-scale individual re-identification. Two experiments test the ability of identifying individuals online (on a dating site) and offline (in a public space), based on photos the individuals made publicly available on social networking sites. A third experiment tests the ability of inferring individuals' personal and sensitive information (their interests and Social Security numbers) from their faces, combining face recognition, data mining algorithms, and statistical re-identification. The results highlight the implications of the convergence of face recognition technology and increasing online self-disclosures, the emergence of "personally predictable" information, and the future of privacy in an "augmented" reality world, in which online and offline data blend.

Additional Supporting Materials


  1. What can face recognition technologies do today? How about 10 years from now? (I will discuss the progress and limitations of face recognition technologies, and whether current limitations are systemic or, in fact, transient.)
  2. How can SSNs be predicted from... a face? (I will discuss the concept of data accretion, and how research in statistical re-identification has shown that it is possible to start from anonymous and/or non-sensitive data, and infer identified and much more sensitive information - including predicting Social Security numbers starting from anonymous faces in the street.)
  3. What is "personally predictable information"? (I will discuss how the combination of online self-disclosure and data mining will create categories of individual data which are predictable even when not openly or explicitly disclosed.)
  4. What is the relationship between privacy and augmented reality? (I will discuss how the convergence of ubiquitous computing, face recognition, social networks, data mining, and cloud computing are making it possible to blend online and offline personal data - about ourselves and others - on ordinary mobile devices via augmented reality applications.)
  5. What is the future of privacy in a world of augmented reality? (I will discuss how the proliferation of devices able to recognize and make inferences about people around us, in real time, will affect our very notions and expectations of privacy and anonymity in public.)



Alessandro Acquisti, Professor, Carnegie Mellon University

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