This New Surveillance AI Can Pick You Out Of The Crowd Based On Your Height, Gender, And Shirt Color

Tuesday, 23 October 2018 - 12:31PM
Technology
Artificial Intelligence
Dystopias
Tuesday, 23 October 2018 - 12:31PM
This New Surveillance AI Can Pick You Out Of The Crowd Based On Your Height, Gender, And Shirt Color
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Machine learning and neural nets have been adapted to everything from writing fortune cookie messages to developing new drugs, but there's a darker side to all of this progress: Google's DeepMind recently published ultra-realistic AI-generated photos of scenes that never existed (called "deepfakes") – and now researchers have published a paper that outlines how AI can be used to identify people in security camera footage based solely on their height, gender, and the color of their shirt. Those traits are called "soft biometrics," and they may become the key to new AI-driven surveillance techniques.

The CIA is already experimenting with using artificial intelligence to do the heavy lifting when it comes to sorting through reams of data and finding patterns, but this new technology, which identified almost 70% of targets "in a very challenging dataset with soft biometric attributes," brings to mind Amazon's Rekognition software, which was flagged by the ACLU as a potential threat to civil liberties.



Though more crude than facial recognition, the new AI program could become a key part of a mass surveillance campaign. According to the paper, published on arxiv.org: "The task of person retrieval in the video is very challenging due to occlusion, light condition, camera quality, pose, and zoom. However, attributes like height, cloth color, gender can be deduced from low-quality surveillance video at a distance without cooperation from the subject."

This technology could help law enforcement sort through hundreds of hours of video footage by narrowing down who they're looking for, even across multiple feeds or videos. Alternatively, it could be used by governments to keep tabs on those deemed dangerous or dissident. Paired with a recent study claiming that publicly available DNA data can be used to track down relations who haven't made their DNA public, it seems privacy and anonymity are quickly becoming obsolete.
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