Facial Recognition Technology Might Place Children At Risk

The online facial recognition search engine PimEyes allows anyone to search for images of children scraped from across the Internet, raising alarm over its possible uses.  

PimEyes' technology enables people to look for faces in images which have been posted publicly on the Internet and describes itself as a 'reverse image' search engine.

Privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch claims that it also facilitates stalking and has complained to the UK data and privacy watchdog (ICO). But according to PimEyes' CEO Giorgi Gobronidze, it poses fewer risks related to stalking than social media or other search engines.

To make full use of PimEyes, users need to take out one of three types of paid subscription. In its terms and conditions, the site says it is intended to allow people to search for publicly available information about themselves. 

Starting with a person's picture, PimEyes finds other photos of them published online. This could include images on photo-sharing sites, in blog posts and news articles, and on websites.

Campaigners accuse PimEyes of unlawfully processing the biometric data of millions of UK citizens - arguing it does not obtain permission from those whose images are analysed. Big Brother Watch's complaint claims that PimEyes has enabled "surveillance and stalking on a scale previously unimaginable". 

Big Brother Watch says that by piecing together information associated with these images - for example the text of a blog post, or a photo on a workplace website - a stalker could work out a person's "place of work, or indications of the area in which they live".

In June the New York Times published a report taking the subscription-based face search engine PimEyes for a test run and producing worrying results for personal privacy. 

The test was conducted on several of the newspaper’s reporters unearthed a surprisingly accurate collection of results including decades-old pictures, pictures in which the subject’s face was obscured, and even pictures in which they were amid a blurry crowd.

"Images of anyone, including children, can be scoured and tracked across the Internet," wrote Madeleine Stone, legal and policy officer at Big Brother Watch, as she announced the complaint.

BigBrotherWatch:   Intercept:    BBC:     Yahoo:   NYTmes:    PimEyes:    CPOMagazine:

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