OPINION: Face App marks acceleration of personal data collection
The internet is once again filled with images of aged-looking facial pictures of younger users. This has been made possible by Face App, a Russian-developed app by Yaroslav Goncharov.
While this activity felt harmless there's a reason to be concerned. In the very near future you will walk into a building, a city or country and without talking to anyone it will be known who you are, why you are there and what you've done in the past.
All of this will be made possible by a technology known as facial recognition technology. Besides other reasons such as selling your images or using them to create a deep fake (where images of real people are digitally altered and disseminated as real), images captured by Face App may be used for facial recognition. What needs to be understood about what Face App has done is that the world is going through a process of digitisation that includes collection of data.
There's a race among corporations to collect as much data as possible to feed technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to enable the development of products.
Corporations are trying to take advantage of whatever data they have at their disposal to generate revenue. Those that do not have data yet are collecting it for their own advantage.
As we move towards the world of the Internet of Things, every object, including our bodies, is being digitised through the collection of data. Some like Facebook and Google are trying to own every piece of data and some, like Face App, want one piece of data and that is your face.
It's true that there's little that one can do to prevent facial images from being collected in view of the current proliferation of cameras in cities and buildings.
The difference, however, with the Face App phenomenon is the extent to which users have personally given away their own facial images. By doing so, users of the app have agreed that their own faces can be used for commercial purposes and other Face App objectives that are yet unknown.
Society has to be concerned about Face App, but there should also be concern about other apps and platforms that are used regularly.
Other apps like Facebook have proven to be untrustworthy when it comes to how user data has been used. Governments need to implement stronger policies and create a broader awareness of the privacy issues linked to online usage and protect society.
Society needs to take the use of personal data seriously.
While face data is the target now, next is the brain. Neuralink, a company linked to Elon Musk, is getting closer to implanting tech in your brain. Society should ask tougher questions about tech companies that use body parts for digitisation.
Wesley Diphoko is editor-in-chief of The Infonomist. He also serves as the chairperson of the IEEE Open Data Initiative. You can follow him on Twitter via @WesleyDiphoko