Does Viral Ad Campaign Offer Scary Glimpse Into Our Future?


Does Viral Ad Campaign Offer Scary Glimpse Into Our Future?


Every day in Hong Kong more than 16,000 tons of waste is dumped in the streets and public spaces. A new project from the Hong Kong Cleanup Challenge and ad agency Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong hopes to bring attention to the issue. It may also offer a scary

The pair teamed up with DNA technology firm Parabon Nanolabs to take technology typically used in catching criminals and using it to create DNA-based composites of litterbugs from genetic material left behind on discarded garbage. Posters of the perpetrators will be put up across the city and online.

How realistic is it to create a picture of you from a soda can you tossed on the street?

According to Parabon, pretty realistic. Its Snapshot tech is able to identify a high probability of certain features, such as eye color, showing that it's not just brown, blue or green, for example, but that someone’s eyes may be blue with some green.

The technology can also show skin color, hair color and ancestry. These findings then determine the start of what a person looks like. Face shape is made up of traits, like small eyes, wide set, bumpy nose, big lips, etc. So the system builds a model from the genotype and phenotype data in the sample and then uses a facial modelling program to represent the face from 44 possible variables in order to draw an accurate portrait of the litterbug.

While a catchy ad campaign the technology is a scary look into the future of our log everything, track you from cradle to grave society.

American authorities already have massive DNA databases of people investigated, charged or convicted of criminal offenses. These DNA databases are tied to pictures, thanks to mugshot and driver's license databases.

And we already use similar roadside scanning technology. Police are increasingly using automatic license plate readers to ticket cars or track deadbeat dads.

We're not far away, at all, from a system like that used in the anti-litter campaign.

As a country we need to decide if this is the way we want to live. Automated policing is a slippery slope and ripe for abuse. Red light cameras, for instance, can be and are carefully tuned to maximize revenue while leaving motorists with no humanly possible chance to avoid their tickets. They are tuned to prey on us not be fair.

We must be careful to learn from these failures and develop policing systems that reflect the values of our country - liberty, freedom and justice. We can't be seduced by clever technology that fundamentally destroys the values we hold dear, even if means tolerating a certain amount of bad behavior. It's a small price to pay for liberty.

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