Much of the photography news and criticism in the New York Times is deployed in the Lens Blog, regularly a fascinating read. A Nov. 16 post focused not on the work of and up-and-coming star or an old master, though, but on the lowly selfie.
The article “Who’s Who? The Changing Nature and Uses of Portraits” reminded me of this week’s reading and the Monday presentation on privacy in the digital world. As portraiture and self-portraiture have become ubiquitous, our sense of identity has become intertwined with our public “image.” As Marvin Heiferman states, “Increasingly, we define ourselves by who we show ourselves to be.”
Another point: Most of us have experienced Facebook’s tagging feature, and the ease with which biometrics can identify our friends in photographs. But perhaps we have not given much thought to how governments and other organizations collect records of our biometrics without our knowledge, let alone consent. Facial recognition technology is now being used for more than just security reasons, as companies are secretly data-mining our faces to determine how better to sell to us. We do not own the copyright to our own faces. Thus our self-image, and the image we project to the world, becomes yet another commodity.
“What facial recognition allows is a world without anonymity,” says Alvaro Bedoya of the Georgetown University Law Center. “You walk into a car dealership and the salesman knows your name and how much you make. That’s not a world I want to live in.”