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View Full Version : The awesome power of the internet - maybe



DWSTXS
10-29-2009, 10:06 PM
I just had an idea because of another thread on the AW forums.

The other thread is titled 'Do you recognize this writer?' and features a pic that some AW'er snapped in a coffee shop, and it has caused many of us to speculate as to who (whom?) the man in the picture might actually be.

The discussion broke out as to whether or not it was legal for our AW'er to have snapped the pic and posted it, with the overwhelming (and correct) census that it IS okay, and I agree with that. It's a public setting.

However, I have a different proposal for the many and nefarious great minds assembled here on AW.

to wit: How FAST could a random person, somewhere on the planet, be positively, accurately identified, from a pic posted on the internet, using just our resources of family, friends, internet searches etc?

And without help from legal and law enforcement databases, and without cheating (asking the person who took the pic). If the person was a non-celebrity, and not hiding, or concealing their sex, age, height, overall looks etc.

It might be fun to do it, just to see how small a world it really is.

ETA - I don't want to re-visit the 'legality' discussion of the posted pic in this thread, because that's being well-covered in the other thread. I just wondered what others would think of the idea of identifying someone, randomly, from a single pic, using the internet and social circle power alone.

scarletpeaches
10-29-2009, 10:08 PM
I'm just off out, but I'll come back to this later.

My opinion is that posting a photo of one person is definitely NOT okay. It's an invasion of privacy at worst, perhaps embarrassing for them at best.

Whether or not it's legal is another matter. Immoral? I'd say so. If someone did it to me I'd go apeshit. Yes, I have a photo of me in my avatar but that is MY CHOICE. Just being out in public, however, does not make one public property.

But now I've posted here I'm subscribed so I'll catch this thread when I get home this evening.

ChristineR
10-29-2009, 10:22 PM
Well, the obvious answer to the thread in question would be for someone to contact someone and Paris, find the guy, and ask him who he is.

There have been a couple of cases now where child pornography was posted online (without the actual child) and people were asked if they could ID the background--it took no more than a few days in the cases I know of. Of course those had lots of people looking at them at once.

Karen Junker
10-29-2009, 10:32 PM
The problem with the pic of the guy in the other thread is that it must be at least two years old - they've outlawed smoking at that cafe. I did email someone who blogs from Paris, but I figure I got into her spam filter and I got no answer.

I'm very curious about how long this would take, too. But not enough to risk sounding stalkerish.

Dicentra P
10-29-2009, 10:35 PM
It took a couple of days to identify this Jane Doe:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/10/24/teen.jane.doe/index.html

stephenf
10-29-2009, 10:53 PM
It's not a uninteresting question but there can be no answer. However, I do have a suggestion .If you see someone and feels the need to identify them ,introduce your self and ask them to do the same. If the mystery person was me .I would smile and politely tell them to clear off and leave me alone.
As for who or whom, I think ,in England, whom is now considered a bit old fashioned and has been replaced who .

CACTUSWENDY
10-29-2009, 11:14 PM
I think the odds of IDing someone with the AW folks as the look outs would not do well because many don't get out much. We have about 15-20 members worldwide right now and who knows how many just lurk...lol,....but with the missing person ones the police use the internet all the time to help them find people. (Good guys and Bad guys.)

I am going to go with the same odds as winning the lottery. Pretty bad odds.

I know I wouldn't want my pic posted on the net. (With or without permission.It's bad enough I have to see myself in a mirror each day.)

Samantha's_Song
10-29-2009, 11:22 PM
I was in London, a few years ago now, and we had just been inside the transport museum's shop. When we came out of the shop there were two really old people sitting on a bench, and above the bench was the sign saying 'museum'. It tickled my fancy so I photographed them and put it up onto the internet, on VT, for a while... and called them old relics. :D


P.S. I quite often use the word 'whom'.

BigWords
10-29-2009, 11:27 PM
First, by looking at the data attached to the image, a person would be able to state the make and (maybe) model of the camera which took the photograph. There will be a timestamp to date the pic as well, so a date can be established. Is the hypothetical image in focus? If so, and given the assumption that there are identifiable landmarks visible, that means the location can be established as well.

So far that is two pieces of information that you have to work off of. Posting the image with Date: [10/29/09] and Location: [Wherever] attached to a request for information from the public should result in some (possibly) useful feedback.

The search for information on an individual should be no more difficult than tracking down any other piece of information. We also have to take into account the rise in CCTV footage being streamed online, photograph sharing sites (4chan, for example) and the e-detectives who sift through information.

My guess for a realistic answer? Maybe a week or two. Nobody can hide any more. If you were throwing money at the search, offering a cash prize for the first person to correctly identify the individual, you would be able to slash that time down to under 48hrs.

Karen Junker
10-29-2009, 11:29 PM
'Whom' is the objective case of 'who'.

You can see examples of when it is correct to use either in: http://grammar.about.com/od/words/a/whogloss.htm

DWSTXS
10-29-2009, 11:31 PM
First, by looking at the data attached to the image, a person would be able to state the make and (maybe) model of the camera which took the photograph. There will be a timestamp to date the pic as well, so a date can be established. Is the hypothetical image in focus? If so, and given the assumption that there are identifiable landmarks visible, that means the location can be established as well.

So far that is two pieces of information that you have to work off of. Posting the image with Date: [10/29/09] and Location: [Wherever] attached to a request for information from the public should result in some (possibly) useful feedback.

The search for information on an individual should be no more difficult than tracking down any other piece of information. We also have to take into account the rise in CCTV footage being streamed online, photograph sharing sites (4chan, for example) and the e-detectives who sift through information.

My guess for a realistic answer? Maybe a week or two. Nobody can hide any more. If you were throwing money at the search, offering a cash prize for the first person to correctly identify the individual, you would be able to slash that time down to under 48hrs.


I agree with this. In fact, I was planning on saying, in the original hypothetical, that I believe that the person could be both located and correctly identified within 72 hours.

katiemac
10-30-2009, 12:47 AM
I feel like I just saw a movie or TV show where they were using this premise--upload a photo of someone, and the program scans the facial features and looks for more photos of the person uploaded on the Internet. I wish I remember what program this was.

And Wired magazine writer Evan Ratliff (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evan_Ratliff)has already done this as an experiment (http://www.switched.com/2009/08/20/writer-evan-ratliff-has-vanished-and-hell-pay-you-5k-to-find-him/). I feel like he was found in under two weeks, but it was definitely under a month.

Plus Google has face recognition (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/04/googles-photo-face-recognition-is-wow-marketing/)software.

DWSTXS
10-30-2009, 12:54 AM
Well, the problem with using face recognition software, is that you need a face to compare it with in the first place. (If I understand it correctly)

My hypothetical, is to find someone just using the pic itself, coupled with educated guesses, and a network of people to spread the word out to. In other words, how long would it take, sending the pic from friend to friend to friend until someone said, 'I know that person!'

ChristineR
10-30-2009, 01:08 AM
Another example. On the first episode of America's Most Wanted broadcasters put up a story about David James Roberts, and they started getting relevant phone calls during the first commercial break. There was another case that took place in my own town--they briefly showed a guy on the "Next Week" promo, and instead of the scheduled story the Fox people had to come here and film a story about the hometown cops had acted on tips that had started coming in within minutes of the promo airing. By the time they got to "Next Week," the guy was already in jail. I remember it because it seemed like the whole town was covered by news trucks for a day.

swvaughn
10-30-2009, 02:00 AM
Wow. Kinda scary to think about, isn't it?

I'm pleased to say that there are zero photos of me on the internet. Haven't ever used them for any avatars or profiles, haven't even e-mailed a photo of me to anyone. I hope to be able to keep it that way. But that may not be possible these days.

At least no one is looking to take a picture of me. :D

benbradley
10-30-2009, 02:03 AM
Please give my regards to Dr. Whom.

backslashbaby
10-30-2009, 02:15 AM
The problem with the pic of the guy in the other thread is that it must be at least two years old - they've outlawed smoking at that cafe. I did email someone who blogs from Paris, but I figure I got into her spam filter and I got no answer.

I'm very curious about how long this would take, too. But not enough to risk sounding stalkerish.

No, it was the end of March of this year. You can smoke outside at cafes. Do let me know if anyone knows who he is :)

DWSTXS
10-30-2009, 02:21 AM
Please give my regards to Dr. Whom.

Dr. Whom receives your regards wholeheartedly, and wishes to announce his forthcoming nupitals where he will wed the everlasting beauty, Ms. Ever. The minions of AW are hereby invited to attend the revelry and festivities. (RSVP is not obligatory)

After the ceremony, the Whomevers will abscond immediately to the site of their proposed honeymoon, Never-Land, and all hangers-on are hereby put on notice that it would be ill-advised to presume to co-attend the couple on their voyage of love as said privacies will be gaurded fiercely and breach of such would place any and all trespassers into dire circumstances of bodily grievance and perilous harm.

With high hopes, the illustriuous couple has confident plans for carnal success, as the above-mentioned 'honeymoon' will double as a baby-making retreat and said couple expects to offer, four to six months hence, a hearty and hale congratulatory announcement of upcoming serial editions of their own corporeal forms, hopefully in the form of one of each available sexual edition of the parenting duo.

Possibilities already being bandied about, as to the nomenclature that said small beings might be saddled with, being: more, how, & never. AW'ers may submit their own proposals for names of dependents

Parametric
10-30-2009, 02:25 AM
It took a couple of days to identify this Jane Doe:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/10/24/teen.jane.doe/index.html

Fascinating story. Robin Hobb-quoting amnesiac who calls herself Amber. Awesome. :D

Matera the Mad
10-30-2009, 02:51 AM
It's a crap-shoot. The people who know the mystery person have to be into the interchubez and one of them -- one who notices things -- has to visit the page with the picture. It's a big Interwho. There might be a thousand or more that don't get identified for every one that is.

Judg
10-30-2009, 03:04 AM
Wow. Kinda scary to think about, isn't it?

I'm pleased to say that there are zero photos of me on the internet. Haven't ever used them for any avatars or profiles, haven't even e-mailed a photo of me to anyone. I hope to be able to keep it that way. But that may not be possible these days.

At least no one is looking to take a picture of me. :D
You mean there are no pictures of you on the Internet with your name attached to them. That doesn't mean you haven't appeared in somebody's vacation shots somewhere. Or in somebody's Facebook album or something. I'm willing to bet your face is up somewhere.

Nivarion
10-30-2009, 03:53 AM
I'm sure it has a lot to do with Metcalfe's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metcalfe%27s_law) law. The more people see it the more likely it is to be identified.

So if the picture was in a much more trafficed spot of the internet then it becomes more likely to be identified with every person that sees it.

swvaughn
10-30-2009, 04:06 AM
You mean there are no pictures of you on the Internet with your name attached to them. That doesn't mean you haven't appeared in somebody's vacation shots somewhere. Or in somebody's Facebook album or something. I'm willing to bet your face is up somewhere.

I have been very, very careful. Also, nobody would ever take a vacation where I live. :)

That doesn't mean someone didn't manage to sneak a shot. It's a possibility. Fortunately, an extremely slim one.

Heck, I went to NYC last week. I might be on Google Earth somewhere now. :D

Judg
10-30-2009, 04:13 AM
No relatives with Facebook pages? Riiiiiight.

Mind you, Janet Reid has done a really good job of keeping her image off the Internet. How she manages that is totally beyond me. I mean, the woman goes to NYC parties...

cptwentworth
10-30-2009, 04:27 AM
I have been very, very careful. Also, nobody would ever take a vacation where I live. :)

That doesn't mean someone didn't manage to sneak a shot. It's a possibility. Fortunately, an extremely slim one.

Heck, I went to NYC last week. I might be on Google Earth somewhere now. :D

I found my picture on Facebook from people that I don't know. I was in a 5th grade/6th grade elementary class, and someone posted that picture on Facebook with my identity there. Also I was an auxiliary member of the band, and a band member I never knew posted that picture up with me and 50 others in it. I've had me in school dance photos from someone who gave the picture to someone, who passed it to someone else, and they've posted it because they knew someone else in the photo, not me.

You are in people's histories and past photos, whether we realize it or not. It's incredibly difficult to stay out of the public eye. Heck, mall cameras, bank cameras, convenience stores, people taking pictures of their kids by the school where you're picking up yours in the background, kids soccer games, traffic cameras on lights.

Not that I'm paranoid or anything, really, but there is no privacy. I can see my car and house from space on Google.

swvaughn
10-30-2009, 04:41 AM
No relatives with Facebook pages? Riiiiiight.

Mind you, Janet Reid has done a really good job of keeping her image off the Internet. How she manages that is totally beyond me. I mean, the woman goes to NYC parties...

My relatives don't have pics of me. :D And besides my husband, who knows exactly how much I loathe cameras, all my friends are online, so they've never seen me either.

I adore Janet - and I think I might've seen a picture of her once, but that could have been my imagination.

backslashbaby
10-30-2009, 04:41 AM
I've worked in all kinds of environments and what freaks me out is that people talk about strangers that come in: "Oh I see that guy jogging every morning on 52." "I know; he lives in that yellow house with the white dog." etc etc.

Don't even ask what stories you hear as a waitress ;)

People know more about who you are and what you do than you might think! IMHO, I'd rather have complete strangers far away talk about me. It's creepier when you have to see them a lot. But again, that's how people are... meh :)

As for the OP, I wouldn't be surprised if someone did know something. If folks where he lives see it, they will have seen him around.

Samantha's_Song
10-30-2009, 05:02 AM
Weddings are piss-boring. I'm not coming, so don't reserve me a table. :tongue

Dr. Whom receives your regards wholeheartedly, and wishes to announce his forthcoming nupitals where he will wed the everlasting beauty, Ms. Ever. The minions of AW are hereby invited to attend the revelry and festivities. (RSVP is not obligatory)

DWSTXS
10-30-2009, 05:08 AM
Weddings are piss-boring. I'm not coming, so don't reserve me a table. :tongue

this wedding is clothing optional, with a full bar (gratis)... the entertainment is dancing yuk-monkeys and the door prize is an all expense trip for two anywhere in the world.

Samantha's_Song
10-30-2009, 05:20 AM
I do believe that you are trying to tempt me, Sir.

this wedding is clothing optional, with a full bar (gratis)... the entertainment is dancing yuk-monkeys and the door prize is an all expense trip for two anywhere in the world.

BigWords
10-30-2009, 11:36 PM
I can see my car and house from space on Google.

You can see your car from an aeroplane's photograph on Google Earth. From space a car would only be a pixel or two in the image.