In life we exchange security for privacy on a daily basis – but what about when we travel or have vacations and our privacy is ignored?

How Facial Recognition is Becoming More Pervasive

As people walk through downtown streets they often wonder if the cameras everywhere are taking pictures of their faces and quietly filing them into a database somewhere that governments or other institutions are using.

Some of this is true and much – we don’t really know for sure.  What we do know is – it is something much more simple.  We know that every time someone loads a new picture into Facebook and tag the faces in it, they are contributing to a national facial recognition database.  When you don’t pay for a service, the chances are – you are the product.

But who else is successfully using facial recognition in real life situations?  Any private companies or institutions?

Las Vegas.  Daily gamblers are kicked out of casinos and many are given lifetime bans.  But how is this enforced?  How could employees recognize thousands of faces across dozens of establishments?  Impossible?  Yes.  But they have help.  Facial Recognition Software.

Let’s travel halfway across the globe to Australia where casinos have serious problems with gamblers who are restricted from entering said casinos.  Unlike Las Vegas, the problem isn’t card counters, cheaters or fighters – it’s actual gambling addicts who have been banned for life and the casinos are required to try to prevent them from entering.

A program / company called SkyCity performs facial recognition for most of the big casinos in Australia.  It matches faces of people with known gambling problems with people attempting to gamble at the casino.  Their database is extensive and tied into the government database.

SkyCity is paid in concessions for running the Auckland convention center – and other places.  Similar systems have been in place in Las Vegas and other casinos around the world already.

The moment you enter the door of the casino your face is scanned by cameras – whether they are very visible or not.  For some casinos, these systems are not very smart and they rely on casino employees using high megapixel digital cameras to photograph questionable gamblers.  The top of the line systems use “Biometric Facial  Recognition”.  This is a system that airports, government facilities and other places are using more and more frequently.

Bio metric Facial Recognition

To begin with, there are two forms of bio metric facial recognition today.  The simplest systems are “dumb” – in the sense that all they do is take snapshots of everyone entering a premise or sitting at a table or using a machine.

“Smart” systems go one extra step.  They actively read the snapshots and compare them to a database that pro-actively alerts security.

Even if you have been banned, on the dumber systems you can still sit and play – as long as you don’t make large bets or cause a big scene.  If you do make a scene, their “dumb” systems may send over a security person undercover to take a high res picture of you and compare it to their database using a smarter system.  If they have smart systems in place – you are screwed.

Some state of the art systems espouse patents they gained from non-obvious designs.  What do you think?

License Plate Recognition Software

Another way that casinos can know you are present is through license plate scanning.  If you have had issues with a casino before, chances are they have or have scanned your license plate.  Most high tech casinos nowadays have license plate recognition software that scans everyone parking there.  If you have been banned before – they will easily find you, even if you are just eating in a restaurant and not gambling.

The simple way to avoid this is to park at another, non-associated casino and walk to where you want to play.

NORA – Non Obvious Relationship Awareness

NORA is a system of both love and hate.  NORA is the system that the Department of Homeland Security started using to identify terrorists and terrorism links after 9/11.  Yeah – it can help find and defeat terrorists.  But Blah – because with little more than a relationship it gives the government an excuse to trample on your liberties and rights.

If you have facial recognition combined with NORA, it can show you how two people sitting at a table together might be related – even if it is because they were frat brothers 20 years ago and 5 states away.  It can also show that the dealer is a distant cousin of said player who started hitting it big.

NORA most recently goes by the name IBM Relationship Resolution, we personally liked NORA better.  But you get the idea.  NORA is designed to recognize in seconds relationships that humans could never know at first glance.  NORA can also grab criminal records and local arrest records.

So what does all of this mean?

Well, everything that is the point of this blog.  Daily our privacy is being invaded based on the “need for more security”.  But if you are not a criminal and are just taking a weekend off in Vegas – do you need Big Brother watching you?

Do you need to post everything to your Facebook and ensure that every person is tagged as well as the location?  Think Vegas – what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.  Perhaps this is a good mindset to consider with privacy.  Let the world know as little as possible as it needs to know about you.

It’s not that you are bad or have something to hide – it’s the trust and responsibility that goes with having intimate information about you.  For instance, you may completely trust your government with your private information, however, look at how many have been hacked over the years.  Now criminals have your information because your government lacked the responsibility to secure it properly.

Big Brother is here, and Big Brother fights, very successfully, for his rights too.