Friday, October 21, 2011

The Dangers of Facial Recognition are real

“Facebook's Privacy Issues Are Even Deeper Than We Knew” was the headline at, just after the Black Hat Conference at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas in August 2011. A research team at Carnegie Mellon University had showed that Facebook has become a worldwide photo identification database.

“Paired with related research, we’re looking at the prospect where good, bad and ugly actors will be able identify a face in a crowd and know sensitive personal information about that person.”

It turns out that CMU searchers didn’t even have to log into Facebook to get to the photos there. They relied on just Facebook’s public profile information and off-the-shelf facial recognition software, then accessed profile information through Facebook’s search engine APIs. Nevertheless, they matched Facebook users with their pictures on otherwise anonymous accounts.

“Drawing upon previous research, they were also relatively successful at guessing individuals’ Social Security numbers. From there, of course, it is just an automated click to your Google profile, LinkedIn work history, credit report, and many other slices of private information.”

Two months later, the following article appeared on’s website:


“The FBI by mid-January [2012] will activate a nationwide facial recognition service in select states that will allow local police to identify unknown subjects in photos, bureau officials told Nextgov … Often law enforcement authorities will ‘have a photo of a person and for whatever reason they just don't know who it is [but they know] this is clearly the missing link to our case,’ said Nick Megna, a unit chief at the FBI's criminal justice information services division. The new facial recognition service can help provide that missing link by retrieving a list of mug shots ranked in order of similarity to the features of the subject in the photo....

“Using the new Next-Generation Identification system that is under development, law enforcement analysts will be able to upload a photo of an unknown person; choose a desired number of results from two to 50 mug shots; and, within 15 minutes, receive identified mugs to inspect for potential matches. Users typically will request 20 candidates, Megna said....

“The planned addition of facial searches worries Sunita Patel, a staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, who said, ‘Any database of personal identity information is bound to have mistakes. And with the most personal immutable traits like our facial features and fingerprints, the public can't afford a mistake…."

The article goes on to say that large-scale searches may generate a lot of false positives. Hmmm … might that happen with your picture, taken from your passport, a travel visa, any government ID, your driver’s license, yours or someone else’s website, a dating site, or from Facebook (posted by you and/or your “friends”)?

Monday, October 17, 2011


That’s what the parents of three teenage girls in Indianapolis, Indiana thought. Nevertheless, at a party with a webcam, they visited an Internet chat room. One thing let to another, and the boys at the other end dared them to flash their breasts. They did, but no problem, right? The boys were in some other state, far away, and they’d never hear from them again.

A week passed. Then one of the girls received a series of threats by e-mail. She was told to either email more explicit pictures and videos of herself , “or I’ll post your pictures to all your MySpace friends.”

Did the girl then confess to her parents what she had done? No, she complied with his demand at least twice. (Police and federal authorities eventually became involved and indicted a 19-year-old Maryland man for the crime of "sextortion.”)


Teens are more vulnerable to blackmail because they're easy to intimidate and embarrassed to tell their parents. The result is that they will do almost anything to keep naked pictures of themselves from getting out.

          Jonathan, 24, extorted nude photos from more than 50 young women who were on Facebook or MySpace.

          Anthony, 18, posed as a girl on Facebook to trick male high school classmates into sending him nude cell phone photos, which he then used to extort them for sex.

          A 31-year-old man hacked into more than 200 computers and threatened to expose nude photos he found unless their owners (many of them juveniles) posed for more sexually explicit videos.

Here is a suggestion to any of you parents with a teen daughter. Have a dead serious talk with her about the danger of sexting. Explain that if, despite your warnings, she takes some revealing pictures of herself and sends them to anyone on Planet Earth, she may soon get a threat to take and send more pictures, or else. Kindly explain to her that she will at this point have two options:

Plan A. She can confess to you and ask for your help. There will be some consequences such as grounding involved, but this will pass and you love her and will help her.

Plan B. She can submit to the threats and send the blackmailer whatever he asks for. Explain that this will eventually come to light anyway and at that point, life as she’s known it will disappear.

Friday, October 7, 2011

How to obtain a secret bank account when all else fails

The following quote is from Elsy in New York. She sent it to me as a post to one of my website pages. This was such an ingenious solution that I am passing it on to you.

"I purchased Invisible Money when it first came out. A friend was in trouble with the IRS and could not deposit his money in his own bank until he could work out a payment plan with the IRS.

"In Invisible Money you discuss older bank accounts. We brainstormed and came up with several ways to acquire an old bank account. My friend started looking for businesses for sale at dirt cheap prices. He really did not want the business; he wanted the business bank account. He found a one-man lawn service business looking to sell his client list.

"He purchased the business (client list) for approximately $3000. Included in the purchase was the business bank account which was opened in 1966. No social security number attached. Just a tax ID number

"Then he sold the business client list for his purchased price minus the bank accounts."