“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows…” (Evil laugh)
So, I was chatting to a work colleague and he was showing me his new mobile phone. It’s what boys do when we don’t have any lenses to compare. His phone appeared to have several camera lenses on the back, plus the magic word Leica. But what he was showing me was that the camera could recognise what he was taking a picture of and adjust its settings accordingly. Keep that in mind as exhibit 1.
I was chatting to another colleague (I know, is there no end to my social round?). He is a web developer. He had developed an application that looked at the feed from a CCTV camera placed near the runway at a small airfield. When something moved in front of the camera it took a snapshot. He used some clever web services to look at the picture, recognise what was in it and send him back the results. If the results said ‘airplane’ he saved the image as a record of a landing or takeoff. Exhibit 2.
So what these have in common is that a web-based service is analysing the content of a picture in real time and with impressive accuracy. How cool is that?
Pretty damned uncool if I took a picture of my baby in the bath. Remember that woman who had her picture removed from Facebook because her elbow resembled a naked breast? What if the web service says ‘naked child’ or ‘person holding gun’?
We used to have a rule when the kids were younger of ‘no weapons at the table’. This obviously changed with time to ‘no phones at the table’. But there are a myriad pictures of them carrying everything from wooden broadswords to plastic laser blasters. There are an equal number of cute little snaps of them wearing nothing but a cheeky grin and a dusting of baby powder. These are in the special album that we threaten to bring out when we get the visit + girlfriend. You can get a lot of errands run this way.
But these are my pictures and were seen, if at all, by a photo lab technician who was a human being and probably got the context. I’m a lot less comfortable sending them off to t’cloud and saying “can you see what it is yet?” (about as comfortable as we all are using that reference any more). It did cross my mind what would happen if I took a few pictures of some Frank Frazetta or HR Giger art? (Not that I’m a closet teenage boy, just that they are an example). I expect it would stuff my chances of getting through US Customs.
Am I being paranoid? Some parts of the world are truly Fup Duck but I do hope that thoughtcrime remains a thought experiment. And that nobody discovers my stash of dinosaur porn.
I didn’t think I would ever need to revisit this, but have you seen what Apple are doing? Comparing their users’ stored pictures with an online archive of child porn in a game of spot the paedophile.
This won’t end well.