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Stalkers, Look What You Made Taylor Swift Do (Hint: It Involves Your Face)

Facial recognition is everywhere, even at musician Taylor Swift’s concerts, Rolling Stone revealed earlier this week. The artist, who is a frequent target of stalkers and assailants, had a camera scanning the faces of concertgoers to check them against a database of known stalkers, according to a security expert who attended a May concert.

The multiple-Grammy winner isn’t alone either: businesses from car rental agencies to airports are already adopting facial recognition, ostensibly to speed up customer identification. Amazingly, a farm in County Meath, Ireland is even using it to track the behavior — and misbehavior — of its cows.

While the U.S. and China are also pioneering facial recognition for monitoring their populations, some investors have doubts about the impact it will have on companies offering the services, such as Amazon.

There’s also far bigger, ethical questions to consider.

“If you don’t feel incredibly threatened the first time you hear about it, you don’t understand what it is,” says David Hunt, CEO of AI startup Cainthus, of bovine recognition fame.

The good news is that in these early days of the technology, it may be possible to defeat facial recognition simply by wearing some well-placed stickers, like Technology Review’s editor Gideon Lichfield. Or the technology may defeat itself, such as when Amazon’s software linked 28 U.S. members of Congress to a database of criminal mugshots.

Despite this, consumers — and stalkers — might do well to heed Swift’s lyrics: “I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me.”