Odd Today, Commonplace Tomorrow;
Photo Algorithms Will Change The World

The first time I saw someone talking to themselves sitting in a restaurant I thought it was extremely odd. Then I realized they were talking on a phone with a dangly cord in front of their lips. But what was unusual only a few years ago is now completely commonplace.

However, when you read this article entitled The Surprising Things Algorithms Can Glean About You From Photos, you may not be able to imagine a day when this stuff is considered “normal.” What the article talks about is the idea that there is technology being built that can aggregate data from photographs and draw a conclusion from it. Alternatively, the analysis of data within a picture can also provide interesting (scary) revelations. Consider this paragraph from the article:

Photo-recognition systems can also be used to interpret the environment in which a photo was taken. Several years ago, a small tech company called Jetpac identified and categorized the content of 150 million photos posted publicly on Instagram to build a directory of businesses searchable by their characteristics. If the photos taken at a restaurant showed a lot of mouths wearing lipstick, Jetpac’s app would tag the spot as “dressy.” If most of the faces in a photo of a bar were male, it would tag the spot as a gay bar. (Jetpac was acquired by Google in 2014.)

Taking this a step further, I can imagine a time when an arts marketer might take a picture from the front row of the audience of a show, and have it analyzed to determine the age and/or demographics of those attending. Rather than doing a survey, a digital image properly interpreted could reveal the same information.

Taking this a step further, how about those pictures that are taken at a gala event? Imagine engaging a photo-recognition app to identify who the people were that came as guests of one of your board members. These guests are often “phantom” prospects that you don’t know, but you’d like to identify later.

I suspect all this conjecture may be making you a bit uncomfortable, but some of this seems inevitable. Just remember, years ago it seemed magical (if not a bit invasive) to find out we could see whether a particular ticket buyer opened an email campaign.

What was odd then, is now commonplace. Rinse and repeat.

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