Fake news: No, strangers can’t find you on Facebook by taking pictures of you on the street

Will an app let you find random strangers on Facebook? No — not yet, anyway. Coventry Telegraph

Facezam, a soon-to-be released facial recognition app, will let anybody take a picture of you in public, run it against millions of Facebook profile photos and identify you.

The concept alarmed many, including Facebook itself, which warned that the app violated its terms of use.

It also got widely circulated in the mainstream media in Britain, though most (not all, see below) have since edited their stories to show that Facezam was a hoax — which, since you’re reading about it here, you’ve already figured out.

The hoax itself was cleverly framed. The app’s makers cautioned that it didn’t work as well if the person was wearing a hat or sunglasses, for example, which sounded like a responsible exercise in managing expectations.

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It also played cleverly on what we know about technologies that already exist. Facebook has a vast storehouse of information about all of us, and its algorithms work with it in mysterious ways. Image-based search services like Tineye and Google Image Search can match images in much the same way that a search engine looks for search terms. Facial recognition technology is getting more sophisticated. Findface, a Russian facial recognition app, will try to connect a picture of a face to profiles in VK, a Russian social networking service similar to Facebook.

Given what Findface is doing, is linking that capability to a phone’s camera a stretch? Not really. Creepy, but believable.

“There are deep structural flaws in the online media system which make it relatively easy for hoaxes to be created,” said Jack Kenyon, founder of the ad agency that thought up the hoax.

It’s hard to disagree with him.

READ: Fake news: Why does this simple Google search autosuggest a neo-Nazi site?

In fake-news news:

  • Germany’s parliament will debate a bill that would fine social media companies like Facebook and Twitter up to  €50 million ($71 million) if they failed to delete hate speech and defamatory fake news. Last week, a German judge refused Anas Modamani, a Syrian refugee, an injunction against Facebook ordering the deletion of posts accusing him of crimes and terrorist acts. 
  • Did U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrange for Exxon to give Donald Trump’s business over a billion dollars, while he was at a meeting in Russia that Russian president Vladimir Putin also attended? Well, not as far as we know. However, that was what elaborately forged documents seemed to show. Buzzfeed unfolds the strange tale. (It seems like a better-quality forgery might have slipped further past the radar in this case.)
  • HuffPo looks at the flood of anti-Hillary Clinton fake news stories, many coming from sites in Eastern Europe, which were aimed at Bernie Sanders supporters last year. The sheer volume overwhelmed pro-Sanders Facebook groups during the Democratic primaries. The fake sites deepened existing tensions between the two camps: “… legitimate skepticism opened the door to believing the more demented propaganda. And the more the fake news was passed around, the harder the divisions became.” A long read, worth your while.
  • Politico looks at Ukraine’s organized efforts to fight fake news. Russian fake news has targeted Ukraine for years, but the issue only got serious attention there after the U.S. election. Kiev-based StopFake now has 30 full-time employees.
  • At Yahoo, owners of two fake news sites explain their point of view. “Once you get an emotional response from the readers, they become your bots,” one says.
  • Irish people came to North America as immigrants, as famine victims, as indentured servants (people who were shipped to colonies by their employers, and then had to work off the expense). But not as slaves, as this site asserts. There is an agenda behind the claim, as Jezebel points out: “One of the dangerous places you’ll see this misinformation pop up: the current white backlash to the Black Lives Matter campaign.” The meme was created to set up a quit-yer-whining response to discussions of African-Americans and the legacy of real slavery in the United States, the Irish Times points out.

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