Security

Facial recognition software is the future of mass surveillance

The National Security Agency collects millions of images as part of its facial recognition program, top-secret documents show.

The images are reportedly collected through exploited emails, text messages, social media, and videoconferences. The NSA believes its facial recognition program packs “tremendous untapped potential,” according to leaked slides [below].

“It is not clear,” the NY Times cautiously notes, “how many people around the world, and how many Americans, might have been caught up in the effort.”

The newly reported leak reflects the NSA’s shift away from text analysis, and reminds us of the incredible (yet terrifying) potential of facial recognition software — for government agencies and private companies alike.

The NSA’s efforts appear somewhat similar to the FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) program, an initiative which allegedly contains “over 100 million individual records” and will have “52 million face images by 2015,” according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

20 comments
Fabian Keller
Fabian Keller

When Facial Recognition Pioneers turn against the industry they helped to build.

Joshua Darlington
Joshua Darlington

I've never heard of face recognition. Is that like affect recognition, action recognition, gait recognition, clothing recognition, etc etc etc. Seems to have more uses for marketing, ioT personalization and if were lucky OS. Can we expect the NSA to pursue advanced tech in competition with threat potential?

Dinesh
Dinesh

Adam, no, it's not, at all. If VentureBeat produced a biannual update reporting on the authorities, then that would be more than fine, but an almost-daily update about the NSA's quite reasonable activities is excessive. It is fine to watch over those that watch over us, but we needn't be so paranoid about it and focus on it all of the time. Anyone that is shocked that facial recognition will be increasingly used in surveillance is naive. Facial recognition has been being increasingly used over the last couple of decades, it's just that technology is getting better to make it more accurate. The NSA doesn't need to scan your selfies to get your face, anyone with a US passport or drivers' licence has probably already given a photo of their face to the state. I'm British, and all I have to do to enter the UK is show my face to a camera at the border and computerised facial recognition lets me in. Let's stop believing that we're all living in a Big Brother state, and see our governments' actions for what they are.

Adam Reed
Adam Reed

Dinesh probably wants to buy the data from the NSA for "telemarketing" purposes. ONLY JOKING :D But seriously, we are very fortunate to live in the age where information on our authorities can be distributed so easily and quickly so that we can keep a watch on those who watch over us. To say that articles on the NSA are tiresome is on a par with saying that knowing if you are on the secret police's hit list is of no interest to you.

Teemu Itkonen
Teemu Itkonen

No worries when phone or harddisk dies.. ask NSA for the free backup

Dennis Tracz
Dennis Tracz

I had to find an ATM. I used my GPS to find a Wells Fargo ATM while driving near Baltimore for business. The GPS indicated one less than a 1/2 mile from my location. Following the guidance which seemed to be taking me down an unmarked road with no buildings visible. After a few minutes a turn onto a divided road that led to a building in the distance. Getting to the entrance I noticed 2 guys dressed all in black carrying assault rifles. I came to a stop and one of the guys asked me what I was doing. I showed him the GPS blinking with a Wells Fargo ATM. He gave me a wry smile and told me to turn around and get the hell out of there. I was at the back entrance to NSA HQ! I guess they have a Wells Fargo ATM in there somewhere!

Dinesh
Dinesh

I appreciate that the article content in this instant is entirely factual, unlike many other news sources, but at this time, after all of these NSA leaks, one of which you are reporting on, reporting anything about the NSA (which you do, often) from unofficial sources appears to be, to the general public, anti-NSA, given the sentiment promoted by other sources. Furthermore, I understood "Keep uploading those selfies, people!" to be a sarcastic remark discouraging the taking of selfies as they will be likely used by the NSA for mass surveillance. I apologise if I misunderstood the intent of you sharing this content, but there seems to be an article a day from you about the NSA, which is becoming tiresome. I wish I could unfollow them, without unfollowing all of the other interesting content that you so kindly share, Thank you, however, for your response; that is ever so kind.

Greg Vincent
Greg Vincent

Disagree completely. Thanks, VentureBeat, for covering this extremely important topic.

VentureBeat
VentureBeat

And how is this anti-NSA? We're only reporting the facts.

Yannick Boucher
Yannick Boucher

Of course it is. And I'm actually disappointed by how late we are on it being in everybody's hands.

Joel Reyna
Joel Reyna

With the added bonus of subverted liberties let's all get some....

Mir Ahsan
Mir Ahsan

I love how the CIA was a major contributor when Facebook first launched.

Dinesh
Dinesh

Your anti-NSA articles are tiresome.

Nancy Smith
Nancy Smith

hmm, so thats why my internet connection is so busy. i was wondering who was searching my computer for images!

Dave Massicotte
Dave Massicotte

Got nothing to hide! If that can help to find real threat, Im all for it!