Online photos can reveal our private data say experts

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Face recognition technology can be used to gain access to a person's private data, according to a new study.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University combined image scanning, cloud computing and public profiles from social network sites to identify individuals in the offline world.

Data captured even included a user's social security number.

Experts have warned of the privacy risks faced by the increased merging of our online and offline identities.

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The Carnegie Mellon team combined off-the-shelf face recognition technology with publicly-accessible Facebook profiles to identify individual students walking on campus.

In another experiment, researchers were able to extract the social security number of a student starting only with their photo.

"When we share tagged photos of ourselves online, it becomes possible for others to link our face to our names in situations where we would normally expect anonymity," said team leader Professor Alessandro Acquisti.

The researchers have also developed an 'augmented reality' mobile app that can display personal data over a person's image captured on a smartphone screen.

Since these technologies are widely available, our future identities may become exposed to anyone with a smartphone and an Internet connection. Researchers believe this could force us to reconsider our future attitudes to privacy.

"The seamless merging of online and offline data that face recognition and social media make possible raises the issue of what privacy will mean in an augmented reality world," Said Professor Acquisti.

The results of the research will be presented at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas this week.

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