Human trafficking: big data has made us a product for sale

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Today, information is currency: data is bought and sold, stolen and changed, and of course collected. If you want to know something about someone, you can find a lot of information legally – you just need to know how to do it.

There is a special program that enables people to easily analyze public data. Let’s check what you can learn from the Internet if you want to.

Find me on the Web

In April 2016, Eugene Tsvetkov, a photographer from Saint Petersburg, drew attention to himself with a photography project called „Your face is big data . ” Eugene took photos of people on the subway, and then posted them on the FindFace.ru website, popular in Russia. This service allows you to search for public users of the Russian social network VK.com based on their photo.

Tsvetkov split the photos into two groups: those of people sitting in front of him on the subway and their profile photos from VK.com. About 70 percent of search attempts were successful, although the service had trouble recognizing images of older people. During the experiment, he learned a lot about the lives of complete strangers – he didn’t even talk to them.

There is also a romantic side to this situation: with the help of the FindFace website, any person with a VK account can find that handsome guy or beauty they met at a party; you know, with that beautiful smile. We, however, have to be realistic: only a few would like to be searched by literally every stranger who has a camera, because then it is easier to implement cyberbullying or something worse. For example, to implement the plan described below.

When they „teach” the oldest profession

The Russian Internet media team Social Data Hub conducted a scandalous project that collected data on 27,856 women and 1,387 men in prostitution. Using their own facial recognition technology, these staff found the social media accounts of the people in question and used the information to compile a „ranking of Moscow universities whose graduates walk the streets”. Data for this project was obtained only from publicly available resources.

Of course, their conclusions are not very reliable. The relationship between men and women in the data stream shows that occupations popular with women will dominate anyway, so that the iron mining institute cannot so easily challenge the results of this 'study'. Either way, the provocation worked.

Caught in one web

The power of social networks is not limited in any way. When something is posted on the internet, we don’t fully realize what image someone can see if they put the puzzle together. There is, for example, a service for the VK.com social network that helps to visualize the relationships between friends on the social network.

Take a look at the picture below. It shows two circles of friends: mine and my sister. Each dot on the chart is a person who is connected to me or to her. Interestingly, we have both friends who know both of us, and those who only know me or my sister.

If you look at the diagram, you will find a circle of the victim’s closest friends, as that person and their company will be part of the commonality. Here you can see my friends from previous work.

Do you know the saying, „Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are”? It really works. If most of the people in your circle have common interests, your target probably has interests in common. If all the people in your circle work for the same company, you’ll find it on the victim’s CV.

This way, you can quickly discover the most likely former sympathies of the victim, their family members, friends and colleagues, and find out many other interesting things.

Although this site was created for entertainment purposes, to test your skills and have fun with friends, there is professional software for the same purpose. And it is much more powerful and enables specialists to find a lot of information.

We live like in an aquarium. What can we do?

Consider how many cameras oversee the streets and how often you post your photos on the internet. You will probably come to the conclusion that our world is completely transparent. With only one photo at your disposal, you can use the above-mentioned technologies to find people on the internet and analyze their accounts in order to get a lot of valuable information. From this data one could probably create a biography of them.

The more this or that company knows about a given person, the easier it is to sell goods and personalize the offer, which increases the likelihood of a sale. And believe me, companies use it as much as they can.

Social networks are a free piece of cheese in a mousetrap. Modern analytical technologies have officially made people a commodity, although not everyone would like to hear a further interpretation. Plus, social media is useful and entertaining, so nobody wants to think about it that way. But something has to be done to fix it.

There are many ways to  fight this mass espionage. In order to cheat the face recognition system, you can cut your hair in an unusual way and put on original makeup. It’s also a good idea to wear clothes that reflect the light from the camera lens and spoil your photos. You can also wear sunglasses and a hoodie, such as celebrities.

We may all mature to it someday, but now we should at least restrict access to our social media accounts. In addition, we recommend reading a good text on how to increase your privacy on the Internet .

We also have a series of articles that explain how to safely use Facebook ,  Instagram , LinkedIn  and Twitter . We hope these articles will help you to properly customize your own social media pages. If done right, it will be hard to turn your private life into top data.