Russia launches facial recognition programme to find anyone’s face on Twitter

Using facial recognition is in 'violation' of its rules, says social media platform

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The Independent Tech

A Russian company has launched a programme that can identify a stranger among 300 million Twitter users in less than a second.

The social media platform has responded to the new software, called “FindFace”, saying it its use is in “violation” of its rules and it is taking the matter “very seriously”.

Until now, the facial recognition technology has only run on VK, a social media site popular with Russian speakers, but owner company NTechLab is now launching it across the globe

“We see lots of opportunities for Twitter users on the service,” Artem Kukharenko, co-founder of NTechLab told BuzzFeed

“We think this is something many people will use,” he added, claiming the technology could be used to reduce spam profiles.

“Not in the US, but in other countries there is a real problem of politicians, reporters, finding that someone created a fake account for them.

"I was involved back in Russia with scandals with a fake account posing as a politicians that tweeted something and created political scandal.” he said.

But the privacy risks associated with the technology mean its roll out has sparked alarm among privacy campaigners

Christopher Weatherhead, Technologist at Privacy International said: "The software created by NTechLab highlights the ease to which cross-referencing profiles photos is possible.

"Many users of social networks such as Twitter make a reasonable assumption that their photos are only being used to allow friends, family, and colleagues to identify them within the social platform.

"But once you can be tracked and found by a stranger who has seen a picture of you, or has taken a picture of you in the street, it leads to all kinds of very troubling and potentially dangerous intrusions into your privacy.

"It is crucial that we retain control of the information we put online, to give us greater security and privacy.”

In Russia, NTechLab is in discussions for applying the technology to Moscow city government's 150,000 CCTV cameras.

Twitter spokesperson Nu Wexlar said in a statement that his company had played no role in the development of the software.

"Twitter does not have a partnership with NTechLab.

“When their use of our data was reported to us, we determined that it was a violation of our rules and shut them off from accessing our public API," he said referring to Twitter's Application Programming Interface, which provides a set of functions allowing access to Twitter's data.

“We take these types of violations very seriously, and are continuing to investigate," he continued.

 

Although FindFace doesn't always match the image to the correct VK profile, its creators claim it is effective 70 per cent of the time.

The programme provides the profiles of 10 people who look similar, as well as the most likely match.

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