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    New York Times: When Algorithms Grow Accustomed to Your Face

    The New York Times looks at advances in facial-recognition technology and considers the effects of this biometric technology on individuals’ privacy rights:

    People often reveal their private emotions in tiny, fleeting facial expressions, visible only to a best friend — or to a skilled poker player. Now, computer software is using frame-by-frame video analysis to read subtle muscular changes that flash across our faces in milliseconds, signaling emotions like happiness, sadness and disgust. 

    With face-reading software, a computer’s webcam might spot the confused expression of an online student and provide extra tutoring. Or computer-based games with built-in cameras could register how people are reacting to each move in the game and ramp up the pace if they seem bored.

    But the rapidly developing technology is far from infallible, and it raises many questions about privacy and surveillance. [...]

    Face-reading technology may one day be paired with programs that have complementary ways of recognizing emotion, such as software that analyzes people’s voices, said Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster. If computers reach the point where they can combine facial coding, voice sensing, gesture tracking and gaze tracking, he said, a less stilted way of interacting with machines will ensue.

    For some, this type of technology raises an Orwellian specter. And Affectiva is aware that its face-reading software could stir privacy concerns. But [Rana el-Kaliouby, Affectiva’s co-founder and chief science officer,] said that none of the coming apps using its software could record video of people’s faces.

    “The software uses its algorithms to read your expressions,” she said, “but it doesn’t store the frames.”

    So far, the company’s algorithms have been used mainly to monitor people’s expressions as a way to test ads, movie trailers and television shows in advance. (It is much cheaper to use a program to analyze faces than to hire people who have been trained in face-reading.)

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