Want Recognition? Now You Have it

If you like taking photos, you have probably already heard of Ever.

Ever is a photo storage app that also lets you share photos with family and friends.

The company’s mission is to help you ‘capture and rediscover’ your life’s photos…or memories, as the company calls them. At least this is according to their website.

Truth is, we take an insane amount of photos. It’s easy and quick. And, unlike before with film, we can take as many as we want. Our only limit is our phone’s storage capacity.

That’s why Ever offers a storage service. It frees up space so that you can take even more photos.

You may have heard of Ever, but it is unlikely you have heard of Ever’s other business.

Ever’s other business

I’m talking about EverAI.

EverAI is a facial recognition service.

And, as it turns out, Ever was helping you store your photos but also quietly using them to train their AI facial recognition system.

From NBC News:

Everything about Ever’s branding is warm and fuzzy, about sharing your “best moments” while freeing up space on your phone.

‘What isn’t obvious on Ever’s website or app — except for a brief reference that was added to the privacy policy after NBC News reached out to the company in April — is that the photos people share are used to train the company’s facial recognition system, and that Ever then offers to sell that technology to private companies, law enforcement and the military.

‘In other words, what began in 2013 as another cloud storage app has pivoted toward a far more lucrative business known as Ever AI — without telling the app’s millions of users.[…]

‘Doug Aley, Ever’s CEO, told NBC News that Ever AI does not share the photos or any identifying information about users with its facial recognition customers.

‘Rather, the billions of images are used to instruct an algorithm how to identify faces. Every time Ever users enable facial recognition on their photos to group together images of the same people, Ever’s facial recognition technology learns from the matches and trains itself. That knowledge, in turn, powers the company’s commercial facial recognition products.

Facial recognition technology is rolling out fast

Another important facial recognition provider is Amazon.

Amazon has recently been making headlines after shareholders asked Amazon to stop selling their facial recognition software — Rekognition — to US authorities.

Investors rejected the proposal at the annual general meeting, as it turns a meek 2.4% of shareholders voted for the ban.

Rekognition analyses images to identify text, people or scenes among others. The technology can match people’s face to a database.

But the interesting thing about it for me is that it cannot only tell who the person in the photo is, but it also tries to gage how they are feeling. That is, are they smiling, crying…you get the gist.

In fact, Amazon is already working on a health wearable that can identify emotions. It can help tell people how they feel…or even help interact with others.

According to Bloomberg:

Designed to work with a smartphone app, the device has microphones paired with software that can discern the wearer’s emotional state from the sound of his or her voice, according to the documents and a person familiar with the program. Eventually the technology could be able to advise the wearer how to interact more effectively with others, the documents show.

‘[…] Work on the project, code-named Dylan, was ongoing recently, according to the documents and the person, who requested anonymity to discuss an internal matter. A beta testing program is underway, this person said, though it’s unclear whether the trial includes prototype hardware, the emotion-detecting software or both.

‘[…] Amid advances in machine learning and voice and image recognition, the concept has recently marched toward reality. Companies including Microsoft Corp., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and IBM Corp., among a host of other firms, are developing technologies designed to derive emotional states from images, audio data and other inputs. Amazon has discussed publicly its desire to build a more lifelike voice assistant.

Yep, creepy.

This comes at the same time as a news report that a man in the UK got fined 90 pounds for not showing his face to police testing new facial recognition software.

The point is facial recognition technology is rolling out fast.

There is no more privacy, not even when you are in public.

Everything you do is getting tracked.

And everything in this economy is going towards getting more and more of your data, to personalize our experiences.

Personalized experiences mean we are getting more exposure on things that we have already shown a liking, and not to things that are different or challenging.

And this will affect you as an investor. It reinforces ‘confirmation bias.’ That is, that it reinforces what you already believe. And this could be a danger to your wealth.

We need to rethink our relationship with technology.

Best,

Selva Freigedo,
Editor, Markets & Money

PS: Check out our new Markets & Money video update where I talk about the US ban against Huawei and what could happen next. You can watch it here.


Selva Freigedo is an analyst with a background in financial economics. Born and raised in Argentina, she has also lived in Brazil, the US and Spain. She has seen economic troubles firsthand, from economic booms to collapses and the effects of hyperinflation, high unemployment, deposit freezes and debt default. Selva now writes from her vantage point here in Australia. She is lead Editor at the daily e-letter Markets & Money. And every week, she goes through each report and research note produced by our global network of trusted advisors to find, in her opinion, the best investment opportunities for you in Australia and overseas. She packages these opportunities for you in Global Investor.


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