Database Your Face: Drones to Employ Facial Recognition, Ending Anonymity

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Nicholas West
Activist Post

In a matter of just a few years, we have gone from drones in American skies being a conspiracy theory, to drones being openly debated by Congress for full deployment over the U.S. by 2015. However, you know things have gone to a new level when establishment media begins covering the full range of privacy-ending capabilities employed by drones matched with biometric databases … inside America.

A recent Associated Press article, reposted at major corporate media sites such as Business Insider, surprisingly grasps the near totality of what is being planned in much the same way as we have been covering in the alternative media for some time.

Entitled, “Drones With Facial Recognition Technology Will End Anonymity, Everywhere,” we are presented with this news as a statement, not a question.

The AP is in fact a bit behind the curve to suggest that the capabilities they highlight, are “to be sure … in its infancy” when we have documents obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) which reveal that the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection is already operating drones in the United States capable of recognizing a person on the ground. Or how about the fact that drones can already see inside your bedroom? Wired’s Danger Room reported back in 2011 that not only were drones with facial recognition in development, but also algorithms that could predict behavior.

Rather, what we are witnessing with this news from AP is the mainstream rollout and conditioning of the public to what is already here and what is about to become even more pervasive. Once that is accomplished, we can expect the spin machine to go into overdrive and justify the wonders of constant surveillance, as they attempted to do in the Chris Dorner manhunt.

However, the AP certainly offers a correct summary of how the databases that already exist, where we thought our personal information was protected, will be opened and utilized any time necessary.

From seeing just the image of a face, computers will find its match in a database of millions of driver’s license portraits and photos on social media sites. From there, the computer will link to the person’s name and details such as their Social Security number, preferences, hobbies, family and friends. 

Adding that capability to drones that can fly into spaces where planes cannot — machines that can track a person moving about and can stay aloft for days — means that people will give up privacy as well as the concept of anonymity.

Naturally, the AP peddles this softly as it recounts these “new” developments in a tale of researchers with Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab Biometrics Center attempting to assist in sharpening FBI images of Boston bombing suspects, the Tsarnaev brothers. This is reminiscent of the above-mentioned Chris Dorner manhunt where we heard calls for how nice it would have been to have a drone at the ready for quicker identification and possible assassination.

In a real-time experiment, the scientists digitally mapped the face of “Suspect 2,” turned it toward the camera and enhanced it so it could be matched against a database. The researchers did not know how well they had done until authorities identified the suspect as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger, surviving brother and a student at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. 

“I was like, ‘Holy shish kabobs!’ ” Marios Savvides, director of the CMU Cylab, told the Tribune-Review. “It’s not exactly him, but it’s also not a random face. It does fit him.”

This astonishment is somewhat absurd considering that drones have already been developed that are equipped with camera systems like DARPA’s Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System (ARGUS) seen in the video below. This sensor system can instantly see an area roughly the “size of a small city” with an “all-seeing” eye according to retired Lieutenant, David A. Deptula. The next generation of surveillance tech sees the landscape through a 1.8 billion pixels camera, the highest resolution yet created.

Using a touchscreen interface that can produce up to 65 windows for analysis, military observers can see down to the individual object level to track the movements of vehicles and people. Beyond the real-time surveillance, the system can store everything for future review right down to the minutes and seconds.

Other programs such as Mind’s Eye and Gorgon Stare have already been admitted by the military to be able to “see everything.”

The only thing truly new about this AP story is the announcement that what most people thought to be limited to overseas theaters of war will now definitely be used across Battlefield USA. And researchers are breathless with excitement about how facial recognition technology will be used to “decode the face.”

Students working with Savvides are figuring out how to break up appearance into landmarks as unique as a fingerprint and to build a 3-D image from a single picture so it can be matched from different angles. 

“The things we can do are endless,” said Savvides. “We’re basically decoding the face.” 

For now, the database holds only the images of lab workers and visitors who agree to participate. Savvides said he can envision a day when images collected by tiny cameras embedded in police cruisers and attached to officers’ uniforms are matched against a database of wanted criminals. As soon as a driver looks into a rear-view mirror to see an officer pulling up, the person’s face could be matched. 

That technology does not exist, but the students have built a camera that collects facial identifiers from as far as 60 feet away.

Perhaps that specific technology is not used militarily or for police work in America, but the use of biometrics overseas to identify and match among a database has been used extensively in Afghanistan and Iraq. And with the biometric push in America surrounding everything from immigration to trendy new apps, our anonymity is a hair’s breadth from becoming a myth as it is.

Does anyone really believe that the full capabilities posited as “in development” by the establishment media aren’t currently on the shelf for full rollout when the right crisis arises inside the United States?

The AP reminds us about what is being envisioned by Department of Defense’s Biometrics Identity Management Agency:

Taken steps further using tiny drones that can fly over public areas and link to databases from social media sites, the technology might sweep down any American street and identify almost anyone instantly. Facebook users upload 2.5 billion images a month, but the company limits public access. 

A separate research team at CMU has conducted experiments that matched photos of students on campus with their Facebook profiles — and then predicted their interests and Social Security numbers.

An off-handed dismissal/conclusion to all of this is offered by the AP to anyone who might be worried that this tech could get out of hand . . . as if it hasn’t already:

Not to worry, said Nita Farahany, a Duke University law professor who specializes in digital privacy. The U.S. Constitution will keep the government from peering into homes, and state laws block Peeping Toms.

Unless states get serious about banning drones from their skies, as well as protecting each person’s biometrics as private property, the entire U.S. will start to look like Bloomberg’s New York, where pervasive databasing and surveillance of citizens becomes something that we’ll “just have to get used to.”

Add the potential for autonomous drones and insect-sized drone swarms that can stay aloft nearly indefinitely, surveiling, and even killing targets, and we are just about at the endgame where humanity has completely lost its mind by deferring to computerized machines with weapons to keep them safe.

To see the future of pervasive surveillance and detection right down to the nano-level, please read, How Close Are We to a Nano-based Surveillance State?  Imagine this type of surveillance linked to all known databases. This is a crucial issue that we must speak out about immediately. Contact your local police department and educate them about what is coming. Remind them that they and their families, too, will be put under this digital nightmare surveillance state. Urge them not to cooperate with federal directives to make this become a reality. Also contact your state officials and tell them not to succumb to the economic incentives to become a drone testing site, as states like South Carolina and others have done.

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