If Then

Your Social Media Photos Are Helping to Build the Surveillance State

NBC News’ Olivia Solon explains how companies like IBM are making their face recognition data more diverse—by quietly scraping images from sites like Flickr.

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On today’s show, April Glaser kicks things off by talking about Facebook’s long-overdue crackdown on anti-vaccination groups. The social media platform announced it will stop allowing advertisements that peddle misinformation about vaccines, and they’ll make anti-vaxxer groups and pages harder to find. What took them so long?

Then Will Oremus talks to Olivia Solon, editor of tech investigations at NBC News, about facial recognition technology and how some companies are collecting online photos without getting explicit permission from photographers or subjects.


Stories discussed on the show:

NBC News: Facial Recognition’s ‘Dirty Little Secret’: Millions of Online Photos Scraped Without Consent


Wired: Facebook Will Crack Down on Anti-Vaccine Content

Don’t Close My Tabs:

Will: Joshua Benton’s Twitter thread about Jane Buckingham

Podcast production by Cameron Drews.

You can follow Will @WillOremus and April @Aprilaser. If you have a question or comment, you can email us at ifthen@slate.com.

If Then is presented by Slate and Future Tense, a collaboration among Arizona State UniversityNew America, and Slate. Future Tense explores the ways emerging technologies affect society, policy, and culture. To read more, follow us on Twitter and sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Update, March 18, 2019: Olivia Solon’s affiliation has been updated.