Saturday, May 25, 2013

Creepy Facebook Realization

I have noticed in the past few days that the pictures of the women in ads for online dating service and sexually-oriented interest groups that come up for me on the right-pane ad column when I am logged into Facebook resemble women in my Facebook friend's list.

It's creepy enough that Facebook "knows" that I am dating, but I have declared myself as single in my profile.  I have also provided them with my age, so they know to target me in the "mature singles" demo.  Ugh.

To further illuminate the list on the right here, I follow, or am a fan, of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, and I am a fan (or whatever) of my religious organization, an American zen center.  I have no idea where the BBW thing comes from, but I do have friends on Facebook who are publicly active in that community.

All that is not really so much of a bother.  These organizations placing those ads on the right pay for Facebook.  I am not Facebook's customer, I am their product.  I know that.

What has me creeped me out is that I have noticed that the pictures of the women in the ads for these dating services resemble the women in my Friend's list SO MUCH that I have had to do a double-take to make sure that it wasn't actually someone I know.  This has happened at least a dozen times over the last month.

The two examples pictured at right: the brunette at the top, and the dirty blonde towards the bottom were new today.  I immediately recognized that they resembled two of my friends, and I check to see if those friends were women I have in my Facebook friend's list (it had been so long since I had seen them I wasn't sure).  They both are. 

I think it might have been particularly striking to me today because I haven't seen either of the two friends these two images respectively resemble in years.  So, it not only reminded me of those friends, but it reminded me I had not heard from them in a while.  Not only that, their profile pictures, in the way the photo is framed and lit, resemble the images in these ads.  That has also been true for previous iterations of this curious occurrence. 

Coincidentally, and this may be why this is all occurring to me, I have been doing some reading about facial recognition software.  Because of that reading, I contacted a friend of mine that works with this technology to ask some questions.  That turned into a long phone conversation about it.  I learned what was being done where my friend works.

Using what my friend considers mature, stable, sort of ordinary, readily commercially-available facial pattern recognition systems, it would be simple to scan the profile pictures of my friends in Facebook, match those up with a set of model photos for ads for online dating sites, and provide a feed that inserts the pictures that match the faces of the women in my friend's list into those ads.

For example, if I have a predominance of dark-skinned women with Afro-Caribbean features in my friends list I could be presented with online dating ads featuring pictures of women who also have those characteristics, or EVEN CREEPIER, they could match features to MY profile photo.  Meaning, they could only show light-skinned models to light-skinned accounts, etc.

I don't know if Facebook is doing this, but it can be done, so it will be done.  Bet on it.

Not only that, I've learned from my conversations with my friend that is is possible, today, for you to be logged into (something like) Facebook and, within seconds, have it notify you when someone in your friend's list shows up at the mall to do some shopping, just because the were scanned by a security on the way in, or used an ATM there.  My friend expects employers will start doing this routinely in place of time-keeping, starting with large companies, because of the economies of scale.

Facebook doesn't have a "can't afford it" problem on this level.  Fortunately, that software isn't commercially available (without governmental permission), yet.

Privacy is truly dead.