In a previous post, I described how Facebook and Google Face Recognition is potentially becoming a danger to user’s privacy.

But Facial Recognition technology in social networks can also be a powerful ally that can aid law enforcement in tracking criminals. This is exactly the type of usage that is being contemplated and explored during the recent London riots by a Google group called “London Riots Facial Recognition.”

The purpose of the group is to help the authorities identify the looters involved in the riots by scanning photos uploaded into popular social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and others.

Although the group seems to have noble intentions in their efforts going as far as posting discussions on law-abiding topics such as “Ethical Issues”, the whole undertaking has a “vigilante” feel to it and the jury is out as to whether it is legal for non-members of the police to undertake these types of investigations.

Additionally, there is also hidden danger that is very difficult to determine from a low resolution photograph or video, many times taken with a mobile device, if there was any criminal intent in someone showing up in a photo during a moment of chaos… or if that person’s appearance in the image simply a case of being in the wrong place when the photo was taken.

This is a new frontier for Social Networks and it is still not determined how helpful any information gathered in this method will be in assisting the authorities in controlling the chaos currently taking over London.

What do you think about this type of usage of Social Media Facial Recognition?

Is it a valuable weapon in the aid of law enforcement or an invasion of privacy with the potential for misuse?


Image: Metropolitan Police