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There are plenty of eyes following you …

The map of the US with indication of 5,400 detection points used by police, including face recognition, plate identification, drone surveillance … Image credit: Atlas of Surveillance

From time to time I read on a newspaper, or hear on television, concern on privacy. Well, privacy is long gone and the more time passes the more information about ourselves are gathered.

I thought of this once again as I looked at the US Atlas of Surveillance – go ahead have a bit of fun playing with it. Several researchers in the US collaborated to put together the data on detection systems used by police in the US to identify cars and people and spot anomalous behaviour. They managed -so far- to identify 5,400 detection points, but these are probably just the tip of the iceberg. Some of them focuses on face recognition, other are identifying vehicles by reading their plate. There are fixed cameras and cameras on drones, cameras on police cars and wearable cameras as part of policemen uniform.

Now think about all traffic cameras around, close to 5,000 of them and growing,. Yet these number are peanuts if you look at the CCTV cameras. There are over 50 million in the US as of December 2019, the highest number in the world except China that has over 200 million CCTV around the Country.

Impressed? You shouldn’t.

If you want to be concerned than consider the over 5 BILLION smartphone cameras. In 2020 it is expected that over 1.4 trillion photos will be taken (most through smartphones), that is 2,000 photos for any person on the planet.

If you assume those photos stay with the photographer you are very wrong. Every day just on Instagram over 100 million new photos are posted and as of January 2020 over 50 billion photos have been shared,

Searching your face among the billion of faces on Instagram, Facebook and more is not that difficult and in case you don’t like to write software there are good apps (how couldn’t it be?) that would allow you to search for your face (or anybody’s else face. Take a look at a few of them here.

Of course it is not just about faces. If you want to know something about somebody (or the other way ’round, somebody wants to get info about you) be sure that the information is just a few click away.

You can start with Google, (and possibly set up a Google alert in case something new comes up), look at other search engines, then move on to Social Networks, … If you are lazy let an app do the search for you, you can try some here. If you want detailed guidelines use Truthfinder.

Not enough? There are plenty of pay-services on the web that can find info for you and -sorry- about you.

So I guess now you may understand when I say I just laugh when I read those titles on “privacy”.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.