Selfies are everywhere. They show us hanging out with friends. They show us celebrating a birthday. They show us rooting for our favorite teams. They show us sitting at home. And as it turns out, when viewed individually or in a group, they show a lot of other things, too.
“Selfies could be thought of as taking your own mug shot,” says David Maynor, creative consultant on hacker tools, techniques, and culture for Watch Dogs 2. “These pictures can be mined for behavior and lifestyle indicators over time. As a hypothetical example, can you imagine getting an email from your healthcare provider where they noticed you have gained weight by comparing a series of selfies over the last year, and as a result, your premiums are going up?”
Don’t freak out just yet. The Watch Dogs 2 Selfie Reveal site will give a glimpse into just how much information your selfies are sharing. UbiBlog’s own Chris Watters volunteered one of his own selfies to help take you through the process.
First, select a selfie you’d like to know more about. We chose this selfie of Chris because it would seemingly provide interesting information, and because he’s shooting a rainbow out of his finger.
Here’s what the first round of image analysis provided, including approximate age, location, and other information that’s often associated with basic metadata stored in most digital pictures – nothing too crazy, but enough for a company to begin compiling data:
The section below is where we start learning more about the scarier stuff generated by custom algorithms that cross reference what they see in the selfie with various databases. Here, Chris is labeled as a bully to potential employers, which might make his ability to get a new job difficult. Sorry, Chris. On the other side, we see what information financial institutions might gather. Is Chris a potential deadbeat or a potential cash cow? The selfie says they’d consider him a “sure bet.” That doesn’t sound like a good thing, no matter how you slice it.
Then we see what might be the most surprising bit of captured data – your mood. As David suggests, big pharmaceutical companies can potentially mine your selfies to track your emotions. Looking sad in one of your selfies? Don’t be surprised to see an ad for antidepressants on the Web pages you visit.
Political organizations, like Super PACs, might be interested in your seemingly innocuous selfie the way the Republican Party seems interested in Chris’. Perhaps just as important, this section shows how your selfie can be misused and misrepresented in online ads and other forms of third-party content that you have no control over.
This stuff can be pretty scary, but it also provides a valuable lesson about the things we post online and who might be looking at those things. Watch Dogs 2 is scheduled for release on PS4 and Xbox One on November 15. The PC version will be released on November 29. For more information on the game, check out our previous coverage: