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> You could either stop using these services

No you can't. Facebook creates shadow profiles for every single person in the world. If any single one of your friends has WhatsApp, Facebook has your phone number. They have your phone number and the entire address book of your friend, who probably has friends in common. If two of your friends have WhatsApp and they both have your number...

You see where I'm going here? There are pictures of me on Facebook that I did not put there. From friends or friends of friends.

I'm not even scratching the surface of what Google knows with GPS and WiFi connections.

No one consented to any of this bullshit.

There’s a reasonable argument in there, but it applies to any world in which digital cameras are cheap.

This is in a sense the worst kind of argument: superficially correct but really meant to tap into a popular groundswell of sentiment.

The question isn’t “can FB use an off-the-shelf CNN to identify me personally” but rather:

“If it weren’t FB who would be doing it instead?”


“Should cheap digital cameras be illegal?”

> The question is “If it weren’t FB who would be doing it instead?” [...] “Should cheap digital cameras be illegal?”

Those are a complete non-sequitur.

Facebook (and Google) analyse every single photo that goes through their system with state-of-the-art ML (it's so good that it almost beat humans at matching faces ~5 years ago). This is a scale of surveillance which the human race has never encountered before in our history[+], and is a serious problem that we (as a society) need to make a decision on. In many countries, car license plates are OCR'd and automatically tracked whenever they travel on almost any main public road. Facial recognition in public places and on public transport is becoming a prevalent problem. And wearing masks is illegal in many countries -- meaning there is no way of "opting out" of the pervasive surveillance in the physical world. None of these things were nearly as commonplace (or even technologically plausible) ~30 years ago.

Cheap digital cameras are a completely unrelated topic. And if such large-scale surveillance was made illegal then nobody would be doing it legally, and those doing it would be held accountable for the public health risk they pose. We don't let people build buildings with asbestos any more.

[+] The Stazi and KGB only really had filing cabinets for tracking people and physical surveillance measures. The Gestapo didn't even have that (the Third Reich had census data which was tabulated using IBM machines in order to track who was Jewish within the Third Reich).

I think you overestimate the degree to which SOTA computer vision is applied to a lot of images online, and I think bringing East Germany into it is pretty out of line.

I think you're feigning offense to avoid addressing the substance of his comment.

There's a very good reason to consider negative outcomes of the past in discussions such as this. Let's pretend companies like Google and Facebook are totally on the up and up; pretend the company that aims to facilitate a user tracking search engine for China that is doing things including literally blacklisting searches such as "human rights", is on the up and up.

The reason what these amazingly benevolent companies are doing and collecting matters is because the systems we build today are precisely what will power the dystopias of tomorrow. As the GP mentioned, Nazi Germany used census data to select and track their victims, aided by some primitive computational technology built for the Nazis by IBM. In spite of how primitive all of this technology was, it ended up being quite effective at enabling them to achieve their ends.

Now compare this to the systems we're building today. Genuinely bad people do, and will, manage to take power in any system. It's not a question of if, but when. And these systems that we're building will be at their disposal. It's the same reason that in politics if you're considering granting the government more power you shouldn't think about today, but about tomorrow. Not do I want "this" administration to have those powers, but do I want future administrations - whom I will vehemently disagree with, to have those powers?

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