Facial recognition matches you to your museum doppelganger!

The Chinese surveillance state may be particularly advanced, but the rest of the world isn’t far behind. In the UK, the Metropolitan police has more than 20m facial images on their databases and, controversially, are using facial recognition software to try to identify potential troublemakers in public places, such as the Notting Hill carnival. And, in the US, about half of adult Americans are now “part of a virtual, perpetual lineup”, according to a 2016 report from Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology. Their photographs are stored in a database that can be cross-referenced by the FBI when looking for a suspect in a criminal investigation.


Sounds fun? It is! Google’s new app allows you to take a selfie – then, like magic, a famous oil painting will pop up with an image of someone who looks just like you. Even if they have a foot long beard and wear a beret (the bad matches are just as fun as the good)!

But what makes this truly relevant and arguably disturbing is how facial recognition is slowly creeping into our daily lives. The technology is still in its infancy, restricted to unlocking phones and cars and some entertaining novelty apps – however, when those apps are instantaneously able to scan and provide the perfect match, we will be firmly in the realms of George Orwell.

It is no new thing to debate the double-edged sword of technology. Imagine the possibilities in museums, cultural spaces and exhibitions, where facial recognition could be used to provide immersion and bespoke experiences and any number of unique cataloguing abilities. But on the flip-side think of the police state, crime and identity-theft…and the dark downward path that spirals.

What’s sure is that it is exciting. Just how long before it becomes frightning we will have to wait and see…

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