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By: James Carven

Due to the tragic events of the Boston Marathon Bombings, there has been a lot of talk throughout the Boston tech community regarding the debate on whether technology and privacy can co-exist. Technology played an integral role in identifying the Boston Marathon suspects through both social media and a new facial recognition software called 3VR. It was nearly impossible to sign onto your Twitter or Facebook account and not see the now infamous picture of the Tsarnaev brothers walking through the crowd with black backpacks on. A few years ago, the process of identifying these individuals would have taken months, but with this new facial recognition software it took a matter of minutes. According to 3VR engineers, their software can pick out parts of the face, nose, eyes, and shape of cheek and create a composite match. After creating this match the software scans a database full of millions of faces and tells you who this person is. This software was clearly extremely vital in finding the Marathon bombing suspects, but it also brought up the ongoing debate on whether or not technology and privacy can co-exist.

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Supreme Court Justice, Samuel Alito stated earlier this year that “new technology may provide increased convenience, but that is all at the expense of our privacy.” It is rather scary that there are surveillance photos out there checking our every move and with one click of the mouse they can determine who we are, where we are from, etc. Allesandro Acquisti, a behavioral economist at Carnegie Mellon University did an experiment where he took 100 students on campus and within minutes he was able to identify who they were and where they were from by using facial recognition and was also able to obtain social security numbers of these students. Again, it is rather alarming that this professor is able to obtain social security numbers from nothing but a photograph. The government has passed a few bills recently that gave consumers greater control over how their personal data is used on the internet. Throughout the next few years the hope is that the government will be tackling this issue head on by passing strict bills giving us more privacy within the technology space. At some point we need to take accountability and become more aware of the information we are putting up on the internet as well.

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