Thursday, August 25, 2011



I haven’t been around much recently. I won’t be around much in the future. I am trying to get my ducks in order so that I can start the final push toward retirement. It is still two years away, but in government, we measure things in cycles and I only have about three left. While dealing with those, I am also setting in motion plans for what I am going to be doing after retirement. This all translates to less time sitting in front of the computer, reading and writing blogs. But I will be around; you can’t get rid of me that easy.

So for today, I wanted to give you a little heads up about Big Brother. This isn’t some sort of a conspiracy rant or anxiety story. It is just a realization that I came across a few weeks ago, while cleaning up some stuff on my computer.

I use a bunch of software for doing photography and creating web logs. Some are in the ‘cloud’ and some are on my hard drive. Most of my blog images are stored on Google’s Picasa site. Picasa also has a standalone (downloadable) version of their photo software. I recently downloaded the updated version of it and came across something that I found disturbing. You can find this software here.

This is really powerful (free) image processing software, but it also gives a glimpse into just how far technology has come and how much it is going to change our lives. Once installed, Picasa will rip through your hard drives and find ‘any’ images you have and very quickly categorize them. This is pretty slick, since there were pictures on my hard drive that I had totally forgotten about, tucked away in long misplaced folders.

As I was getting acquainted with the user interface, I noticed a little folder on the side bar titled ‘Faces’, that I had not created. When I opened it, I found that Picasa had ‘searched’ all the images on my computer and found all the pictures that had faces in them. It then cropped the face and put a thumbnail in the ‘Faces’ folder. Further investigation showed that I could assign a name to a face and the software would then automatically scan all the other face thumbnails for matching faces.

So if I labeled a picture of myself ‘super stud’, Picasa would find all other images of me and label them Super Stud as well. And get this; it is really, really good at recognizing facial features. It recognizes me from the age of 54 all the way back to the age of 10, both front view and by profile.

Once I got over the g-whiz factor of this, I realized just how powerful this was. This is free software that you can download, can you imagine what the corporate version is like, or the government version?

I had always assumed that there was some underpaid security guard sitting in a dark room somewhere watching dozens of television monitors connected to security cameras at the mall, the light rail platform or at the grocery store. Guess again.

Hook this software into your security system and it can match faces of anyone instantly, tell where they have been and tell when they have returned and how often. Once they know you are a criminal and have your picture, they can tell when you pop up on ANY security camera that is networked with this type of software.

Big brother is here, he exists on your computer and you can tinker with him if you want. It is time to wake up and smell the coffee. You can’t be anonymous anymore.