Facial recognition software could reveal your social security number

Aug 02, 2011 by Deborah Braconnier report

According to a new study which will be presented August 4 at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, technology has made it possible to identify and gain the personal information of strangers by using facial recognition and social media profiles like Facebook.

The study, led by Alessandro Acquisti from Carnegie Mellon University, combined the use of three different technologies - cloud computing, and public information that can be found on various .

They used these technologies in three different experiments. In the first experiment, Acquisti and his team were able to identify members of an online dating site where members do not use their real names for identification. The second experiment allowed the research team to identify college students in real life walking on campus based solely on their face and information gathered online.

In the third experiment, the researchers used the technology to predict personal interests and identify students, including some numbers, with only a photo of their face to start. , Acquisti pointed out in 2009, are a as they can be predicted if you know the person’s hometown and date of birth. This new technology uses that information and in many cases can determine a person’s social security number. In this experiment, the researchers looked at Carnegie Mellon University students and those who had a date of birth and hometown displayed on their social media account page.

They developed a smartphone application which gathers both online and offline information and displays it over the person’s facial image on the phone.

Acquisti says that while all attention has been turned to providing security in cyberspace, this new technology allows one to step outside of cyberspace and into the real world. Using cyberspace as a means to identify someone living down the street or who you pass by every day on your way to work is a possibility. The idea of protecting your privacy has been changed and caution should be used before you share the next picture of yourself.

Facebook has recently limited the facial recognition photo-tagging on its site to people in your friends list and Google has not yet allowed facial recognition technology into its searches.

Explore further: Encryption made easier: Just talk like a parent

More information: "Identifying indicators of illegal behaviour: carnivore killing in human-managed landscapes," Proc. R. Soc. B July 27, 2011. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1228

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User comments : 6

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5 / 5 (2) Aug 02, 2011
Awesome, I wonder if they can tell me whether or not this looks infected...
5 / 5 (4) Aug 02, 2011
I always wear a fake nose & glasses when I browse.
not rated yet Aug 02, 2011
Joke's on them. I paid a guy to change my birthdate.
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 02, 2011
If you know someone's birth town and birthday you can predict their ss#? Great Moments in Bad Ideas.
not rated yet Aug 02, 2011
If you know someone's birth town and birthday you can predict their ss#? Great Moments in Bad Ideas.

I wonder myself. Is there an algorithm calculating a SS# using those two pieces of data as seed numbers? If so, it's not a very smart solution.
not rated yet Aug 03, 2011
I'm not sure it really "predicts" the SS#s, but knowing when/where they were born will significantly narrow the possible range of numbers. The actual range would depend on the population of the area, so you're talking from a few hundred numbers to a few thousand numbers.

I find it interesting that they could put this application on a smartphone. It just proves it doesn't really take all that much to hack someone's identity. Identity theft insurance just became a little more enticing.

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