New Google AI Catches Phone Snoopers Red Handed

Most often than not, when we’re on the go and using our smartphones, we’re also putting our privacy at risk, because curiosity makes people look over your shoulder straight onto your screen. This can expose the texts you’re sending, the videos you’re watching, or the books you’re reading, or even what your Facebook friends are posting, to complete strangers.

Generally, we can feel when we are being watched. The scientific explanation of this is that our vision isn’t just about the visual cortex processing what our eyes perceive, but also about other areas of the brain which process different pieces of information. For instance, you may not necessarily consciously realize what you saw with the corner of your eye, but your brain does and it can give you that feeling that you are being watched. In some cases, this may even save your life.

Well, when it comes to the technology we use and keeping our secrets safe, we take plenty or precautions – setting up proper passwords, enabling two-step authentication, using our fingerprints to lock our devices, making backups, and so on. But when we’re traveling by bus, for instance, or standing in line for something, we can’t do anything about that person behind us that’s looking over our shoulders. Until now, that is.

A group of researchers from Google has developed an electronic screen protector which can block out your screen every time someone is snooping in.

The group says that the base of the system is a machine-learning software that uses your front-facing camera on your smartphone to detect faces looking into the screen. If anyone other than the owner gazes at the screen, the user is alerted of the intrusion. In a video demonstration, the messaging app is interrupted when the camera detects someone looking into the screen by displaying the live footage and the stranger’s face in a bright red square.

The system is extremely fast. It only takes it two milliseconds to detect a person’s gaze, and 47 milliseconds for the face recognition operation. This means that the person looking in might not even get the time to comprehend what they’re looking at.

There’s a hitch, however. This would require that you give this app or your phone since it’s unclear whether this would be an app or an Android feature, constant access to your camera. That camera would essentially always be on to catch whomever is snooping in on you.

In a world where we are allowing home assistants and our smartphones to always listen to us, also seem to forget we’re always being watched via CCTV cameras, the idea that your phone’s camera is always on is still a bit unsettling. At the very least, CCTV cameras are run by the police, and our always-listening devices are waiting for us to utter the keywords to start recording.

Either way, this new invention from Google’s labs is one that’s most interesting and will certainly find a lot of people interested in having it on their devices once it becomes largely available.

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