Are your social media photos being used for facial recognition research?

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Face it: Your image may be in IBM's facial recognition database
Image Credit: Dreamstime
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If you have a Flickr account, your image may be included in a vast facial recognition database created by IBM. The tech company pulled from 100 million Flickr images as part of a case study on improving artificial intelligence capabilities.

“Today, IBM Research is releasing a new large and diverse dataset called Diversity in Faces (DiF) to advance the study of fairness and accuracy in facial recognition technology,” the company triumphantly said in a blog post.

Face it: Your image may be in IBM’s facial recognition database

One potential issue with IBM’s project is that the company didn’t find it necessary to ask the people who uploaded the images — or those whose faces appear in them — if it was OK to use their likenesses in this way.

The photos, all with Creative Commons licenses, were part of a data dump that Yahoo (which owns Flickr) made available to researchers in 2014.

No matter where your viewpoint falls on the debate, privacy advocate Clark Howard believes you should know how and where your photos are being used. Here’s how to do just that.

How to find out if your photos are part of IBM’s facial recognition project

NBC News has set up a way to check to see if your images are part of IBM’s database.

Click here and scroll down to the form where you can enter your Flickr username to see if your images are included in the facial recognition database.

As you might imagine, IBM doesn’t exactly make it easy to get the images taken down. Here’s what NBC News found out about removing pictures from IBM’s photo project:

Despite IBM’s assurances that Flickr users can opt out of the database, NBC News discovered that it’s almost impossible to get photos removed. IBM requires photographers to email links to photos they want removed, but the company has not publicly shared the list of Flickr users and photos included in the dataset, so there is no easy way of finding out whose photos are included. IBM did not respond to questions about this process.

Finally, it’s important to remember that tons of internet companies store your information when you use their services, including Google.

If you want to search the web with anonymity, Clark recommends using the search engine DuckDuckGo.

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