Nostalgia, privacy, and family portraits
TL;DR To avoid training AI to recognise your face, have every picture you intend to share to social media professionally painted by an artist. It looks great, people are recognisable, machines can’t figure it out. Plus, if you’re having to pay for it, you know it’s actually worth sharing.
The crow has been waxing nostalgic about the 90s and 00s recently. Maybe it’s because it was a simpler time, maybe I’m having a midlife crisis. From cyberdecks to URL shorteners, there have been a few aspects of that period I’ve been missing and have taken steps to reintroduce into my life.
In the last week, I’ve also been riffing on privacy, facial recognition, and ways to thwart it.
I want to talk for a second about 35mm film and the family holidays of my youth - and I’m going to, because this is my site and I can write whatever the fuck I want to.
Hands up if you recall this scenario: You’re going on a family vacation, you, your mum and dad, siblings and possibly a grandparent or two pile into the family car to before embarking on your foreign adventure.
Your mum and dad pull out a compact 35mm camera or, if they take photography seriously, an SLR. They snap a pic of everyone packed and ready by the car. They pull it out again at the airport, and again on the plane to capture the beauty of the sunrise over the wing of a 747.
Once you were at your destination, there would be pictures taken of the hotel, the beach, any local landmarks, restaurants, perfectly posed special moments. In short, using film cameras the same way we use phone cameras now.
Except - a roll of Kodak would cost around a fiver back in the day and only allowed 24 snaps. Developing each picture roll would set you back between five and 10 quid - depending on how quickly you wanted the physical photos in your greasy hands.
It wasn’t uncommon to shoot maybe six rolls of film. They would be shown off dutifully to all your friends and family exactly once, and then retired to the photo cupboard, and never seen again.
A few would make it into family album, and there would be one - just one, which you’d have framed and displayed in your hall or living room. You (probably your parents) would have shelled out over 100 nicker for one perfect picture.
Yes. The nineties and oughts were a different time. so what?
Yes, they were a different time. These days we snap anything and everything, and distribute them across the internet to be liked or favorited by friends and family who, in most cases, will give even less of a toss about them than they did about your 340 picture album from Disneyland in 1997.
The only entities who actually do care about you uploading and sharing the highs, lows, and mundanities of your existence are the social media companies, and the companies to whom they sell or rent your pictures to create facial recognition AIs.
Yes, The crow was writing about this less than a week ago, and came to the conclusion that Fawkes cloaking technology was the only real way to continue posting selfies to social media while not contributing to the great machine intelligence.
The Crow is a vain bird. He loves to see pictures of his handsome self. And he loves to share them too.
Since last [checks calendar] Thursday, I’ve had a change of heart. Fawkes isn’t the way to go. Portraits are. Actual portraits painted on canvas with actual factual paints.
I’m harking back to the 90s again here - but the 1890s this time, and so, I commissioned one.
Expense-wise I paid roughly what I would have paid circa 1998 for all of the film and processing on a family holiday. Not cheap, but not bank breaking either.
Here’s the Fawkes-i-fied photo on which the painting is based.
It may just be because I financially committed to this, but in The Crow’s opinion the portrait is infinitely superior to the photo.
Aside from the fact it’s less grainy and there isn’t an epic stack of laundry on the back of the couch - it’s just better. The people in it look actually more like themselves. The kids’ features are more visible, it’s cleaner.
Can you see the adoration in Shadow’s eyes?
I’d be proud to hang up the painting on the walls of the nest, or even post it to social media - less so the photograph.
And none of the people in it can be identified by facial recognition algorithms. While Fawkes will have to keep updating itself to stay ahead of AI development, it’s unlikely that a collection of paintings will ever fall victim to it.
You can commission a painting and have it done by a modernist, a realist, an impressionist, whatever. What matters is the spirit of it, and that you have something you’d be proud to show off at the end.
In the end, the Crow settled on an 8” x 6” acrylic on canvas board portrait by Sheila Parr of Pet Art Paintings in Yorkshire. She usually does animals, and as you can see, she captured the dog’s expression and look of love just right. The people in the painting are pretty spot on too. The photo I’ve taken doesn’t do it justice.
Currently, it’s on my mantelpiece where I can look at it, but eventually, it’s going to be framed and hung in the hall.
I may even start up a new Facebook account where can I share it without fear of adding to the PIPA database.
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