July 19, 2019

The Commodification of Human Faces

“RECENTLY, some of my friends have started using their faces to pay for things. Not by charming strangers in bars, but instead by using the iPhone Face ID feature, which has users “glance” at their phone to make a contactless payment. The glance is, in reality, usually a close encounter of phone and face.

Face ID uses Automated Facial Recognition (AFR): every time you use it to make a payment, the Apple TrueDepth camera takes a picture of your face, creates a two-dimensional “map” of it by charting the position of facial features over thirty thousand data points, and then compares this to Apple’s stored image of your face. This means every time you use Face ID, Apple anonymously collects data including, but not limited to: the product purchased, the approximate price paid, where and when you bought it, and your facial expression while doing so. You might have preferred to keep using your fingerprint, since the “glance” is inconvenient, but on the new, home buttonless iPhones, Face ID is the default way to use Apple Pay.

I thought of this during the start of an ongoing UK court case, taken by a man named Ed Bridges against South Wales police for their use of AFR. Bridges says he was photographed without warning by a police patrol conducting a trial on a street in Cardiff; UK police have been conducting these unregulated trials, during which they photograph members of the public and compare them to watch lists, for several years. The process is opaque and their criteria for putting together watch lists questionable. Bridges’s legal team has argued that the way police use the technology breaks data protection and equality rules. The verdict will be decided later this year.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"The likely successor to British Prime Minister Theresa May, Boris Johnson, has plans to subsume the government department overseeing development aid into the foreign office, effectively eliminating it. That will destroy a post-Brexit United..."

"Gerard Baker, editor-at-large at the Wall Street Journal (no reflexively anti-Trump publication) recently wrote a piece decrying Donald Trump and his foreign policy as a fount of erratic unpredictability. This essay will give the counter view...."

"On Wednesday, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar announced that she will be visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories in the coming weeks. Omar will be accompanied by Rep. Rashida Tlaib. The two freshman congresswomen have become a focal point of..."

"Netflix may have lost US subscribers for the first time since it began making its own shows, but that didn't stop the streaming giant from dropping new figures about how many people are sucked into its Adam Sandler vortex. (Spoiler: More than..."

"A few years ago, Amy Balliett, CEO of a Seattle-based design and marketing firm, noticed that as the work week slogged on, her employees’ energy and productivity wilted. “That would slump to such an extent that the same task on Monday would..."

"Over the last few days the #faceappchallenge has taken over social media. This “challenge” involves downloading a selfie-editing tool called FaceApp and using one of its filters to digitally age your face. You then post the photo of your wizened..."

"Although there are plenty of irrational aspects to life in modern America, few rival the odd fixation on lawns. Fertilizing, mowing, watering — these are all-American activities that, on their face, seem reasonable enough. But to spend hundreds..."

"Can a book change the way we think? I don’t mean that in the sense of a reader’s opinion or ideology shifting—of course the right literary work can do that. But can a book rewire the brain itself, literally changing the way one particular mind..."

"It’s our job to let kids know we see and hear them, but we’re not necessarily going to solve siblings’ conflicts for them (or else they never get the practice). When squabbles start, imagine you’re a sportscaster and describe what you see in..."

"Magali Trejo-Martinez, a 22-year-old living in Salem, Oregon, recently went on a date that was rather uninspiring. “I had dinner, had a couple margaritas, and then went home,” is how she recapped the evening. This outcome wasn’t entirely..."

"The first lunar landing was many things — a D-Day-like feat of planning and logistics, a testament to the power of man's will, an ostensible propaganda coup for NATO. It was also, I think, one of the most misunderstood events in the history of..."

"THE FIRST TIME Bernie Sanders ran for president, he didn’t talk much about being Jewish. In fact, he didn’t talk much about himself at all. His 2016 primary campaign, like his whole political career, was relentlessly focused on one topic: income..."