Has Anonymity Died In Russia? Russian Version Of Facebook Can Tag Anyone

The Russian version of Facebook, Vkontakte, has hosted the profiles of tens of millions of Russians for the better part of a decade.

Now, thanks to a new and highly efficient machine learning algorithm, any picture of a face can be matched against a Vkontakte profile, locating and tagging users with astonishing accuracy.

The Findface app, which makes use of the algorithm, is said to be taking Russia by storm. The Guardian reports that the founders of Findface could make anonymity in public “a thing of the past.”

If the founders of a new face recognition app get their way, anonymity in public could soon be a thing of the past. FindFace, launched two months ago and currently taking Russia by storm, allows users to photograph people in a crowd and work out their identities, with 70% reliability.

The designers envisage that, as the technology develops and the social network grows, we could be seeing “a world where people walking past you on the street could find your social network profile by sneaking a photograph of you.”

It’s not just dating, stalking, and hooking up that will be enabled — corporate interests and the police will be empowered by the Findface technology.

“Shops, advertisers and the police could pick your face out of crowds and track you down via social networks.”

Findface’s founders, 26-year-old Artem Kukharenko and 29-year-old Alexander Kabakovc, claim that the Findface app has amassed 500,000 users and processed nearly three million searches since its launch.

Russian artist Yegor Tsvetkov reported about his experience trying to use the app to identify people in the Moscow metro. Tsvetkov used his mobile phone to take photos of random people on the metro, and then he asked Findface to process the pictures. The artist reported that up to 70 percent of people could be located on a given excursion.

The marketing manager of Findface encourages users to use the app to locate people they see in the street, and send them a social media friend request.

“If you see someone you like, you can photograph them, find their identity, and then send them a friend request.”

Some have already spoken out about the potential dangers of Findface. In particular, there have been reports of trolls using Findface to locate the social media profiles of female porn actors and harass them.

Findface cannot currently work with Facebook because Facebook photographs “are stored in a way that is harder to access than Vkontakte.” The app’s creators say that this true even in the case of public Facebook photos.

Social network Vkontakte was previously sued by Universal Music for allowing users to upload copyrighted material, according to Torrent Freak.

“VK allows its millions of users to upload anything from movies and TV shows to their entire music collections. However, copyright holders often claim that Russia’s social network has failed to adopt proper anti-piracy measures.”

The lawsuit was taken to the Saint Petersburg & Leningradsky Region Arbitration Court, which initially ruled that VK could not be held liable for infringement but also that the social network had some responsibility to try to prevent infringement of copyright. The court ruled that Vkontante was “obliged to implement “effective” filtering or other technology to prevent infringement of the labels’ rights.”However, even this decision was eventually overturned. The Saint Petersburg & Leningradsky Region Appeal Court decided that Vkontakte is not required to implement broad anti-piracy measures.

The court ruled that the social network “is not responsible for infringements committed by its users.”

This week, Universal Music officially lodged an appeal. It seems that both anonymity and copyright security may fast be disappearing in Putin’s Russia.

(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)