On Kinect, Face Recognition, Gaming, the war on Privacy and Tomorrow’s Tech Today!

So there is typically method to my madness.

Not always, but typically.

All laptops and tablets come with handy dandy cameras, pointed at your face. With Flash and Javascript and now the new html5 turned on, there are sites you can browse to, that without user intervention can turn on your camera and start snapping pics.

Any number of sites you can go to and see fools, without the good sense to cover their camera when not in use, undressing in sight of the laptop or webcam or hear their conversations when they are off camera, and they think the computer is asleep.

If that just scared you, even a little, it shows only… that you are still sane.

What I have just described, that’s the technology of yesterday. Not only have hackers been using it for years but so have ‘legitimate’ companies, that sell software that does just that, turn on the cameras and mics of a laptop remotely, without the user being aware. Ostensibly the idea for most companies is to use this in laptop retrieval, should the laptop be stolen. But any technology is more often used in salacious ways before constructive.

Example being, the first widespread use of pictures and video on the Internet was the female form.


Denise Milani pic courtesy of Tlcoldiesbutgoodies

For obvious reasons. Sex as they say… sells.

And all new forms of communication, to achieve widespread adoption… use sex to sell themselves to an un-trusting population. Whether it’s men in the wilds of Wyoming, being able to pick up this new fangled device called a phone, and hear a woman’s voice, an operator, speak to them for the first time, or the still common practice of draping a beautiful woman across a new car or motorcycle… it’s the allure of that oldest of motivations that drives new things.

So while the purpose of such technology may have been theft retrieval, by taking pictures of the person in possession of the laptop, then using a combination of GPS and IP address to determine their location, then notifying law enforcement; the truth is… that technology is in more widespread use, to invade privacy.

And as I said, that… is yesterday’s technology.

It’s got nothing on the technology of today, and tomorrow.

Ah, the joys of always on technology.

You know we have a whole generation raised on the idea of giving everything to the Internet, and not questioning or requesting safe-guards on individual liberties.

There’s a reason why we have (had much stronger) wiretapping laws, because there is the assumption that privacy is a central right of man. But what happens, generally through entertainment, through ease of use, is we give away rights, we relinquish the assumption that men have rights.

Take CANDID CAMERA, a show which began in syndication in 1948, before its most popular CBS run from 1960 to 1966… made it a national sensation. The show,virtually single-handedly shaped consent-less video recording as something harmless.

This show, funny, watched by everyone, often not in the best taste, but still had America laughing, was a show about video-taping people when they were not aware of it, and had more than anything to do with defining that as something innocuous. And suddenly in the pursuit of entertainment, a right you had with audio recordings, namely ‘a recording without your knowledge is against the law’, became lost with video recordings.


“Most audio recordings without consent of one or all parties are illegal…. Most video recordings are legal with or without consent.” — UVU

Yes, after the fact they still have to get you to sign a waiver to broadcast the video, but as far as taking the video of you without your permission (through a TV show, through pursuit of ‘fun’ and ‘social media’) that has became a defacto standard.

By not questioning the rights and boundaries being overstepped, those rights became lost. and that’s why we have the surveillance heavy society we have today, because in the pursuit of ease of use, and fun, and jokes, the masses gave up a fundamental expectation of privacy. And things like Face-book and You-tube and reality television are the 21st century extensions of the axiom: ease of use = deterioration of rights.

So we have a whole generation growing up with a pretty invasive technology in, of, and around them at all times. And what begins as entertainment today, that you have a choice in: Kinect, Siri, Face recognition; becomes obtrusive corporate policies and laws of the land tomorrow, that you don’t have rights to dispute, to adjudicate, to deny.

If you don’t care about your computer potentially having the mic and camera turned on remotely, without your knowledge or intervention, than this post isn’t for you.

But it is for those of us who want to have the right to disseminate our information, data, video, audio; when and to whom we choose. Or to have the right to not disseminate that info if we so choose.

But here’s the thing, increasingly pursuit of social media and ease of use and gaming is, by the very nature of the technology being used, incompatible with concepts such as privacy.

So a young generation, going by the mandate ‘I don’t have nothing to hide! I want my fun!’ is going for the immediate pleasure, seeing any technology infiltration as harmless. Here’s the thing it’s not about ‘having nothing to hide’ it’s about ‘having the right to choose who you share with, and where your boundaries begin, and where they end’.

That is a part of socialization that is being lost in this mad rush of always on technology, and ‘trusted’ computing and ‘cloud’ computing, and strangers as ‘friends’.

Who we are as people, who we become, is a lot about developing for ourselves our boundaries, and more importantly the people we let into and out of those boundaries. It’s about developing judgment and values and trust. And what is happening in a post Face-book, You-tube, Kinect world is a society where, like the 1950s audience for CANDID CAMERA, you have relinquished the right to boundaries… even in your home.

The Microsoft Kinect Device controller, is not just about motion detection, the underlying principles of it, which have not yet been scratched; is more than a face recognition machine, dressed as a game sitting in your living room recording your family.

It is a head to toe biometric unit, that is capable of mapping you, and identifying you from your brother or sister or father. It’s a wonderfully advanced whole body scanner… and database.

That’s the part that’s lost on people… Database. It’s a database with a map of your family that can phone home, and store detailed data about you and yours on remote servers. And call Microsoft what you will, but short-sighted and stupid is not among their sins. Kinect is an experiment, taking place in the consumers home, that has so many more profitable applications, beyond gaming.

So it’s more than a controller to create more accurate avatars to interact in 3D games. Its potential is to create a biometric representation of you, as unique as a fingerprint.

Why? Because it’s the holy grail of a new age of on-line transactions and commerce.

Think of the potential of Kinect, really think of it. A society that is becoming increasingly wired, and increasingly house bound, can shop virtually in immersive 3D environments. Banking done like you are playing the most stunning 3D game ever, but done with a unique, and for the purposes of commerce and law, legally binding avatar. An avatar that in terms of how your body moves and how it reacts (eventually incorporating heat ranges, and electromagnetic patterns), can tell potential advertisers more about you then you can tell about yourself.

I can see a day when Kinect biometric pattens are sold to advertisers just like home addresses and email addresses are sold today. So advertisers can tailor directly to you based on the things the pattern tells them, whether you’re balding or having menstruation issues or skin issues or an unhealed limp. Or how about Kinect used in the future to do on-line job applications, and submit a bio-metric pattern, like a signature with your application. Or perhaps even used as a rudimentary polygraph test.

You open the door for motion detection, body mapping, facial recognition, probability analysis in the comfort of your home, for the benefit of ‘entertainment’ and ‘ease of use’ and like that CANDID CAMERA audience of the 50s, you’ve relinquished the assumption that privacy in your home, or of your person, is in any way… a right of man. But you haven’t just relinquished it for yourselves, you’ve relinquished it for future generations, and that may be a path… worth pausing on.

So am I telling you not to buy Kinect, or to surf without Javascript and Flash and with HTML5 disabled? And to put a sponge bob sticky on that camera when not in use? Or to be wary of the technologies you bring into your home?

Nope, I’m not telling you any of that.

I’m only telling you there are no rights of man, without the effort of men to preserve those rights.

Every man, every woman, every child, the rights they would ensure, must be jealously, fanatically even, guarded… from even the seemingly most innocuous intrusion or, they will, in the fullness of time, be taken from you. They must be guarded even from yourself and such easy answers as ‘entertainment’ and ‘ease of use’.

I’m saying Nero fiddled while Rome burned, and I would hate to think a whole generation was playing games on Kinect while, things far more valuable… burned away.

For more on conect, both pro and con, see the following links:

123Kinect
Popsi

Those are just parts of the argument, research it for yourself… and decide.

As far as checking out your camera:

Here’s a pretty simple, and straightforward way to see how accessible your camera is (it is NOT one of the hacking sites I was mentioning earlier. At, least I don’t think it is :)) without your express permission.

Once on the site, on a less secure system, you may see your face if you click the button (on some really insecure systems you’ll see your face whether you click on the button or not). I’m not responsible for any pop-ups or hacking or viruses that may invade your system. or anything that occurs should you visit the site.

It appears to be an innocuous site, but I don’t own it, and am not affiliated with it, so I can’t vouch for it; beyond saying my system, which is pretty secure, was unaffected by the site. Your mileage however, may vary. Responsibility for your security, like anything on the Internet… is yours.

As it should be.

If anything you see on that site disturbs you, like your face staring back at you, look again at the paragraph where I mention javascript, flash, html5, and a sponge-bob sticker. :)

Daily Booth

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Upcoming Movies/Trailers of the Winter 2011-2012 Season

Okay I’ve downloaded and viewed a bunch of trailers. My verdicts?

21 JUMP STREET- The original series was okay, if lightweight and relatively forgettable 80s fare. It deserved better than to wind up as the title of this abhorrent, unfunny, stupid, and pathetic excuse for a comedy remake. The saddest part is there are real directors, real writers and real actors who can’t get funding for films, and yet abortions like this not only get made, but get distribution deals. As you may tell, I didn’t like the trailer. Grade: AVOID.

111111- Evil angels movie. Trailer looks like a poor cobbling of previous mad angel films, a genre I generally like, though it’s never been done well. And with the director of the later SAW films headlining this, it’s clear it is not going to be done well this time either. Grade: Wait for DVD rental or cable.

SAFE-Another Jason Statham action film. I don’t dislike Statham, but much like Matt Damon I find him way overused. I just don’t find them interesting enough actors to be in every single movie, the way they are. I just don’t find them interesting… full stop. GRADE: Wait for rental.

RESTITUTION- With stars C. Thomas Howell and Tom Arnold, this straight to DVD flick has made for tv written all over it, as well as some murky storyline about murder, fraud, and conspiracy. That said the trailer is capably put together, and probably makes this look better than it is. GRADE: Not something I would make time to look for at the video store, but if you get the chance to see it free. give a look.

THE INNKEEPERS- I love, love. love Ti West’s THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, I just think he’s one of the most interesting, innovative and talented young directors to come along in years, so I’m inclined to go see any film he directs. The trailer for the INNKEEPER and its SHINING meets JHorror type plot, is strong enough to get me in the theater. GRADE: Worth seeing at the Theater.

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE:GHOST PROTOCOL- I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again this is the best trailer of the winter (the 1st trailer, not the 2nd one). and looks EFFING AWESOME. And this is a movie that looks like it deserves to be seen on an IMAX sized screen. Brad Bird’s first live-action film, looks poised to show he’s as good a director of live action as he is animation. GRADE: Are you kidding? It’s a MUST SEE in the theaters!

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO- Man that is one long trailer and one unattractive actress and some very understated to the point of bored and boring actors. All this I was thinking watching the latest trailer for this film. I was excited for Fincher returning to the thriller genre, as his last few films I find increasingly uninteresting. Not bad mind you, just not engaging masterpieces the way I consider some of his early films. However each trailer for this film has me more uninterested. GRADE: I’ll see it for a matinée showing and hope for the best. But going just by the unimpressive trailers, if it was not David Fincher directing, this would be a wait for rental flick.

SAFE HOUSE- The first posters for this had me underwhelmed. But I LOVE the trailer. Damn I tell you cinema will be a sad and boring place when you no longer have Denzel Washington as leading man to save us from Statham and Damon retreads. This guy is an Actor with a capital A, he brings the gravitas and weight to films, doing more with a look, than most actors do with entire filmographies. And all of that bloody commanding talent comes though in this brief trailer. And also makes up for the fact that the Green Lantern guy, whatever his name is, is in this flick. Another actor that does nothing for me. But this covert thriller has an exciting trailer, and the trailer has Washington, so GRADE: Definitely one to see in the theater.

THE GREY- I find this Liam Neeson helmed man vs. nature thriller, looks pretty darn compelling in this trailer. I mean man vs. beasts. Last really memorable one would probably have to be THE GHOST AND THE LION. So I’m all for giving this a chance. GRADE: Worth seeing at Matinée prices.

LARGO WINCH: HEIR APPARENT- This is purportedly the third in a series of movies concerning France’s answer to James Bond meets Bruce Wayne. I have not yet seen the first two movies, but like them, this trailer’s movie is another that doesn’t excite me enough to see in theaters. GRADE: Wait for rental.

ELITE SQUAD 2- Heavily armed cops in Brazil killing poor people. That’s what I took away from this trailer, and isn’t something I get behind in real life, or in my fiction. So accolades aside, which the trailer is filled with, my GRADE: Wait for rental.