Technology can be fun and provide many conveniences, but it often comes with a hidden price; a price that includes compromises to one’s privacy. The new “Coke Zero” facial profiler, as many have seen on Facebook or Coca Cola’s webpage, encourages people to post their pictures online as part of a benign game to try and find their “mirror image,” just as Coke Zero is considered Coke’s mirror image. While the thought of finding another individual somewhere in the world who looks like you may be an amusing pastime, a person embarking on a voyage to find his “twin,” should keep a few things in mind.
Coca Cola is a multi-national corporation which means it operates in conjunction with and under the watchful eye of our and other national governments around the globe. Posting a picture on Coke’s website or Facebook may on the surface appear to be a harmless act; but giving a multinational corporation access to a digitized photo of one’s self contributes to the building of a globally accessible database that can be used for facial-recognition cameras and systems. The privacy implications associated with having potentially hundreds of millions of digital pictures from people throughout the world in a database (or databases) is astounding.
An example of how large companies such as Coca Cola can be tapped by government can be seen in companies like Sprint, Yahoo, and Verizon. Sprint has been “pinged” by the federal government some eight million times in one year. Verizon, for example, receives “tens of thousands” of government requests annually for customer records and information. Additionally, who knows if and when companies share customer information and there is no enforcement mechanism to ensure that companies comply with their privacy statements.
Instead of engaging in silly games to find ones’ facial “twin” by having a company send your digitized picture around the world, American citizens might want to practice a bit of privacy-responsible behavior, and more carefully consider the consequences of surrendering a digitized photo of one’s facial features to a company over which they have no control whatsoever.