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Why Employees Should Fear the Future Of Facial-Recognition Software

A hiring manager separates the wheat from the chaff in the resume pile, but wants to zero in a little bit more before scheduling interviews.

So she goes onto Facebook, looks up an applicant's profile, "captures" his profile image with the help of software, and then searches the web for any and all photos of him, whether he is smiling front and center or lurking somewhere far in background on a crowded street. We know it's him, because the software is able to pull up other identifying information. Where has this cat been, and who is he palling around with? Oh, he was at a major protest three years ago? Look, there he is way, way, waaaay the background with a protest sign! Hmm. Next.

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Welcome to the potential future of 21st-Century hiring, courtesy of facial-recognition software, where employers might be able to look up your entire place setting, from cup to fork to napkin, in addition to your mug! The best part? You could be fully identifiable simply by sleeping in the background of a total stranger's smartphone picture that she snapped three years ago at Burning Man. So it's not even your photo! Hello, Mr. and Ms. No Longer Completely Anonymous In the Background Of A Complete Stranger's Digital Photo Because Facial-Recognition Software Knows Exactly Who You Are. In the future, we'll all be walking photobombs.

And just think of how many smartphones are busy snapping away, at all hours, everywhere in the world, with said photos being posted to "private" social media accounts and eventually stored in online databases.

Of course, the hiring scenario described above is still a complete, utter hypothetical in most workplaces, but the technology is there and now some in Congress, including U.S. Senator Al Franken, are busy worrying about the potential, future nefarious uses of facial-recognition technology. As GigaOM.com reports:

It also wouldn't be too difficult to start stalking a complete stranger, or to make a national laughing stock out of some innocent (but hilarious) face in the crowd. Or for a stranger to dredge up those pornographic shots of you that your ex-boyfriend posted online. Or to figure out the guy next to you on the subway is rich, follow him home and rob him.

Or for employers to, you know, dig a little bit deeper on the down low in their online research on job applicants, and maybe even occasionally on employees. Or for employees to dig a little bit deeper on their co-workers or customers, especially the ones they don't like very much. A picture says a thousand words, or something like that. Look, there he is looking high as a kite in the background at the Electric Daisy Carnival! See him!? The nearly-nude one with the neon body paint? Hmm.

But that's neither here nor there and I don't want to sound alarmist or anything, because this is all potentially somewhere in the future. But potentially nearer than we might like to think, and workplace law will have to catch up yet again and that can take years. Remember to think "cheese!" the next time you're in the background of a total stranger's camera shot.

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