Editorial – Two-facebook

Published: April 19, 2017


In my early 20s I spent a decent amount of my free time online. I had recently moved away from Ottawa and my familiar college friends and work colleagues. It was not uncommon for me to spend large amounts of time catching up with people through email or MSN Messanger. Electronic communication had allowed me to multi-task while catching up on new careers and lost loves.

It was late 2006 when an old college friend typed five words that changed my life: “Have you heard about facebook?” He explained it was a new website where we could be friends, keep up with each other, post thoughts and feelings and communicate them to those people instantly while virtually throwing things at them. I checked it out and instantly I was in.

Eleven years later I am, not for the first time, considering disconnecting.

The first time I considered getting off the facebook-wagon was when my parents joined up. Despite being hundreds of miles away, facebook brought our lives together instantly and suddenly my outer digital voice wasn’t as funny as I thought it was.

The subsequent times were all during the “confessions” craze. However, the last few weeks the urge has returned.

Last month an app called Facezam made the news with claims that it could instantly identify the image of anyone who was captured by the phone’s camera. You are walking down the street, see someone you think you recognize, snap – and through the facial recognition software and facebook you would be automatically linked to his or her profile. Although the idea would be quite popular on the dating scene, for most of us who cling to the idea that we still have privacy, the idea was controversial.

Quite quickly the app was proven to be just a marketing stunt, and a clever one at that because all the pieces are there to break down the few last barriers necessary to synchronize each of us through our smart phones. Facial-recognition algorithms already exist and are within reach of a well-funded start up. Facebook houses quite possibly trillions of photos and already use internal software to mark, record and suggest “tags”. In 2016 DeepFace, facebook’s internal technology had an accuracy rate of 97.35 per cent, less than 0.25 below the accuracy rate of humans in identifying an individual.

While right now Facebook has policies against external uses of its technology, its their decision, not ours, if facial recognition becomes mainstream.

And not to pile on the crazy, but data brokers already buy and sell detailed profiles on who we are, where we are and have been, our gender, shopping habits and so on. Facebook continues to inundate me with bathing suit and vacation ads, quincidentally after I spent a few months on-line shopping for both. How long until I walk into a store and the sales clerk already has my likes and dislikes on a tablet all brought to you by facial recognition and facebook.

For now I need to stay “connected”, for my work and selfishly to keep up with the comings and goings of the many people I know. For now….




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