How To Protect Children Online From A Future Of Facial-Recognition Software

13/09/2015 7:29 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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WUERZBURG, BAVARIA, GERMANY - 2014/12/21: A blond three year old girl is sitting in front of a notebook, laptop, watching the screen and using the keyboard. (Photo by Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Parents are being warned to be vigilant about posting photos of their children online, as powerful facial recognition is just around the corner.

Police and personal identity experts told The Huffington Post Australia during National Child Protection Week that the best case scenario was for parents to stop posting photos of kids online -- or, at least, be very mindful about what is being posted.

Photos you post of your children today, can be used against them in the near future.

“I'm just waiting for the first teenager or young adult to mount a legal case against their parent, given how facial recognition and other factors will be used in the child's life for access to health, education and financial services,” Katryna Dow, CEO and personal data expert from Meeco, said.

“When parents share photos of their kids on Facebook, it might be private to your network but it is not private to Facebook. Even if you delete it, the content you’ve created is still visible. So if you post an embarrassing photo of your child, it can be used against them in the future."

Personal data is being traded every day and is being used more and more to make decisions.

For example, if you’re in your forties and you’re on Facebook, you’ll notice the ads about wrinkle cream and Botox appearing on your page.

That’s because Facebook has captured your personal information.

The Federal Government will spend $18.5 million on facial recognition technology known as the ‘Capability’ (National Facial Biometric Matching Capability). It’s revolutionary due to its ability to allow police and security agencies to scan up to 100 million facial images.

“The problem with facial recognition is it’s not just the face. The algorithm is so powerful it just needs a few markers to identify you, even the back of your head. Last week, Facebook rolled out its new photo sharing app, Moments, using facial recognition technology to share long forgotten pictures from your camera roll. It has only been released in the US for now, because Facebook is not confident other countries will allow it," Dow said.

‘Helena’ is a single mother with an 11 year old daughter. She’s been battling with her ex-partner to remove photos of their daughter ‘Sarah’ that he posted on his business blog.

“There are very sensitive photos of Sarah wearing a bikini, putting on makeup, wearing skimpy clothing and wearing her night dress. There are two years’ worth of photos of her on his public blog. That’s more than 50 photos and it is totally inappropriate being posted on a business blog,” Helena said.

“My biggest concern is that Sarah is a minor and was not aware that photos of her in her swimmers could be viewed by anybody and everybody. When he was sent information warning him of the damage his blog is doing to Sarah, he actually wrote a blog post making fun of that information.”

Sarah’s father recently agreed to remove the photographs but, according to Dow, the damage has already been done.

“Imagine two young women applying for one place at university. They have a similar background and skills. They are equal in every way. But when there’s a photograph of one of the girls wearing a bikini, posted on Facebook by a parent many years ago,” Dow said.

“It will be the other girl who gets the university place.

"Why? Because it’s not a human making that decision. It’s a machine, not a human. The machine has detected bare flesh.

"And the girl won’t have any idea that what made her less favourable was a photo that was publically accessible.”

NSW Police Force’s Sex Crimes Commander, Detective Superintendent Linda Howlett, said the online environment has created new dangers for children.

“We regularly encourage parents to talk to their kids about the potential of harm from strangers and online predators, but it’s also important for parents to heed to their own advice,” Det Supt Howlett said.

“Our basic safety advice for children applies to everyone; just as you wouldn’t post something that risks your own safety, you should never post any information that could put someone else at risk. Always think before sending or posting; once it’s out there, you can’t get it back, and you can’t control where it might end up.”

Australians are known as high adopters of technology. The challenge is that we are still in the ‘teenage years’ of the connected world.

“It’s only the beginning of the second decade, so the whole consequences of this online world haven’t played out yet. For parents, the last two decades have been all about educating people to keep your children safe. But the internet is now a whole new layer for parents to be worrying about; not just now but in the future," Dow said.

“Keep reminding yourself that what you post online about your children today will impact on their future; their ability to get access to services, education and medical treatment."

“And remember, even if you delete your photos, Facebook and other social media platforms still own them. They have only been deleted from your page. They have not really been deleted."

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