Smile, Your Face Is On The Internet

[Kyle McDonald] is up to a bit of no-good with a little piece of software he wrote. He’s been installing it on public computers all over New York City. It uses the webcam found in pretty much every new computer out there to detect when a face is in frame, then takes a picture and uploads it to the Internet.

We’ve embedded a video after the break that describes the process. From [Kyle’s] comments about the video it seems that he asked a security guard at the Apple store if it was okay to take pictures and he encouraged it. We guess it could be worse, if this were a key logger you’d be sorry for checking your email (or, god forbid, banking) on a public machine. Instead of being malicious, [Kyle] took a string of the images, adjusted them so that the faces were all aligned and the same size, and then rolled them into the latter half of his video.

[vimeo w=470]

98 thoughts on “Smile, Your Face Is On The Internet

  1. Holy invasion of privacy, Batman!

    Not only did he take thousands of photos of people without their knowledge or consent and post them on the internet, he also annoyed thousands more potential customers simply looking for a Mac with his ‘public exhibition’.

    Let it be known to the world:

    Kyle McDonald is a twat.

  2. i once clustered a few macs in different mac stores for some math calculations…coz..they where just standing around, so why not using calculationtime ;)

    but that….damned…not nice

  3. First of all:
    @third: These people are in public and have little to no expectation of privacy. Ask any judge in the land. As such, Kyle is rubber and you are glue; you name-calling child.

    Also, anyone who can annoy folks shopping for Macs has my appreciation.

  4. Anyone trying to hack into the built-in webcam on my laptop will be disappointed in seeing the sticky side of electrical tape…

    Then again, if I didn’t have the webcam covered, and a hacker saw me, they’d be really disappointed…


  5. I can hardly believe that this guy would then go and announce who he is to all of these people he is putting on the net. Its cool and scary at the same time. I bet this Kyle guy is some sort of psycho stalker and wrote this to spy on his girlfriend who left him. Just kidding Kyle(looks into camera….wonders if its on….)

  6. I agree with the first poster. Hope he gets sued.
    Although there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place, it is not reasonable to take your picture without consent and publish it.

  7. Well if any hacker decided to hack my cam all they would see is a middle aged old guy wearing superman pajamas, drinking a coke smoking(not saying what) watching the news or reading hackaday.

  8. At least do it right – upload that pic stream to facebook and let it to its work so those “strangers” see the art, too. My bet is they won’t be so happy ^^
    Honestly, I don’t get how people think invading others’ privacy fun. This is not even remotely for the sake of something journalistic.

  9. The webcam on my Lenovo has a fairly bright LED next to it that illuminates whenever it is active… even to take just a snap shot it comes on for a good second.

    I believe these Macs have the same… so if has these cams on all the time waiting for a “face” then that should mean the LED is on… in that case a savvy user ought to know the camera is on… a non-savvy user of course would not.

    I wouldn’t be happy knowing that my face was used for something like this w/o my consent, it’s creepy…

    That said, I intend to sit and smile oddly while looking at my PC from now on…

  10. Welcome to the intersection of what is possible and what is ethical, the ethics are a subset of possibility.

    It depends on how you look at it, as previous posters have said, how can you expect privacy in a public place. With all the CCTV and such, But to counterbalance that in the uk, you can demand that photos of you are removed if you are able to notice it being taken.

    I will draw reference back to the google wifi problems, they were only trying to mine data for their own ends whatever they may be, but they didnt expect that they would get the reprisal they did for it.

    Its pretty hard to look objectively at your own project when you are the only champion of the project.

    As noted the scary-er thing here is key loggers, botnets, malicious activity etc.

    I feel for the guy, he worked hard to try and think of something new – if he broke any laws that remains to be seen.

    I can state that if it were me that was on the list of photos grabbed, i would be using data protection to get it removed, *if* i knew about it.

  11. @third I can take photos of you any time I want, in fact I can stand in the street or sidewalk and take photos of you in your home through the windows.

    Suck it. photos of you from a public location are legal and even more so MY PROPERTY!

    This is the problem most people like you know nothing about laws.

  12. @localroger:
    The intersection? Nope. This is just the “being a dick” half. There’s really nothing here that’s interesting from a technical perspective.

    Just another one of these “art” projects.

  13. This is a subject photographers and photo journalists have covered to death. The only thing questionable about what he did is install software on the computers without proper permission (but then again, they are public computers, so I don’t think there is anything wrong with that). While a security guard can’t really give permission to take photos on private property like he did, I don’t think what he did was wrong. People saying he’s a jerk and should be sued, what exactly is wrong about what he did? In the apple store, there probably are a dozen security cams recording everyone, so is the problem the fact that he uploaded it to the internet where strangers can see it? Well, strangers are watching you all the time when you’re out in public.

  14. @fartface In Romania you are not allowed to photograph individual people on the street. Only part of a group and only if they represent a group (Like people in a shopping mall or kids in park)

  15. There is a world of difference between what is illegal and what is wrong. I am reasonably certain that what he did was not illegal. As others have said, there is no (longer) a legal expectation of privacy pretty much anywhere. That said, what this guy did was WRONG and just because you can’t sue him or arrest him for it doesn’t mean it’s OK. Technical hack:B+, Ethical fore-thought:F-

    And no, I do NOT support cctv and other “security” cameras in every nook and cranny.

  16. Wow, such uncivility. Is that really necessary?

    The fact is, he asked for permission from the Apple store, and was encouraged to do so by employees. I’m pretty sure that since he packaged the entire thing as art, it’s covered under protected free speech.

  17. @Mike; it depends. Anything on government-owned land is public, save for private rentals (such as renting a County Zoo, or McGovern Park Hall in Milwaukee, for instance). “In public” doesnt mean its NOT on private property or a business. If it has public access, it’s public. The businees owner can say “No cameras” but they can usually do no more than that.

    Think first, LERN2TARD before you start calling people tards. You aren’t an attorney specializing in this area. There IS one sitting next to me at the moment.

  18. @KanchoBlindside

    Sorry, man, you’re wrong. That is the definition of public and private. The public only have access to the store because Apple wants them to come in. Apple owns it; it’s private. Period.

    To extend your own example, not only can they say “no cameras”, but they can ask you to leave if you don’t comply, and they can charge you with trespassing if you do not leave.

  19. Difficult. First I was a bit freaked out- but otherwise, a Mac store is as public as it gets. I don’t have the impression, that the subjects are being exposed in a bad way, so therefore I wouldn’t really mind. I mean- anbody in the store can see you. So why not other people to? There are lots of webcams everywhere etc. Don’t be so stuck on 1950’s attitudes.

  20. Well,

    @KanchoBlindside – I don’t think that any government owned land is public. You can test it by yourself by entering a military facility and start taking pictures. :D

    @fartface – taking photos from a public place trough a window is an offence at least in England, I don’t think they are alone in that.

  21. Very surprised by people saying that this is not illegal (I am not talking about the hack, just the privacy issue…). Either these people don’t know what they are talking about, or US is very VERY different from Europe regarting this kind of issues.

    Taking a photo of someone (in a public place or not) and publishing it on the internet is illegal without his/her consent is illegal in France and most likely in all other european countries.

  22. @mike – thank you.

    That -is- the definition of private vs public, however, going with the photo arguments on whether or not it was legal/ethical you can also look at it this way:

    Apple’s store is private, the computers are their property and they allow people to come shop there. The fact that the gentleman/hacker in question -asked for permission- from the store to do this gives him full consent to take the pictures, as the photographs took place on the private property, with private property, of people who were voluntarily in that space. He also demo’d his exposition in the same store. If the photos were released to the public, online to flickr for instance, the only parties that would have any say over them would be that particular Apple store or corporate Apple offices. A C&D order could be issued if so chosen for issues of say, defamation, etc. to the store.

  23. @haltux: If the shop has security cameras, which to the best of my knowledge every single Apple store has, there is zero expectation of privacy.

    As the law considers it, “a reasonable person” would understand they are being filmed, whether this guy is doing his project or not. They are on private property, which is not THEIR private property. They have no guarantee of privacy.

    This is no more criminal than sending one of those “boneheaded robber” security videos to TMZ or wherever.

  24. @abobymouse: Just because you brits are too lazy to get up and protect your freedoms and rights doesn’t mean we yanks are. Your country has the most security cameras per-sq-mile of anywhere in the world. Are you joking me about privacy?

  25. I’m in the “Kyle is a creepy douche” camp on this one. It would be nice if one of the proprietors of the shop would post Kyle’s IP that these all report to (unles he is behind seven proxies lol)so we can all see Kyle’s wonderful collection of beastiality pr0n and 3 different iso’s of Rapelay.

    Creepy troll douche.

  26. very cool indeed
    I like the idea of “how does a computer sees you”
    any Asimov reader would daydream after such sentence

    I think I saw my picture in the blitz at the end

  27. I have a question…

    Suppose I take a photo of myself, and then register that photo with the office of copyrights. I word the application to cover not only that particular image, but the source material…in other words, I copyright *my face.*

    Could it not be argued, then, that any subsequent photo of my face that is not authorized by me is a copyright infringement? If my face is copyrighted, than any photograph is, at least, a “derivative work.”

    Before you discount the idea, consider that someone who reproduced the face of Progressive Auto Insurance’s “Flo” could be sued, as could someone who used Subway’s “Jarad” without permission. These may be more a matter of trademark than copyright, but it’s the same idea.

  28. some info i dug up


    I would reasonably be expected to have the privacy in my home. So no you cannot take a picture of me in my home from the side walk. If i had a 8 ft tall fence and you claimed on your roof to take a picture of me. I would also reasonably be expected to have the privacy.

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