The ‘Anonymous Gods’ Of Google Street View by Marion Balac

Screen captures from Google Street View, where an algorithmically-powered mapping service system automatically blurs every face it recognises — including those of giant statues, accidentally anthropomorphising these towing deities as living beings:

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“By applying this bureacratic tool to figures of faith, plunging them into anonymity, we can really see the robot’s point of view.” ~ Balac. “It treats every human face it encounters as data, without exceptions, neglecting religious or scale principles.” From the Luxor Hotel’s Sphinx in Las Vegas to any of the world’s countless Buddhas, a slew of objects have been mistaken by the blurring algorithm and modified to protect privacy.

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This phenomenon reveals how robots see the world—humanity included. “The Google robot makes no distinction between a human face and its reproduction, but it still gives us the feeling that it recognizes us,” she says. “When we get blurred, it’s to protect our anonymity. Civil rights or religious beliefs dealt with from a robot’s perspective—I find it fascinating.” While the prospect of algorithmic robots reducing humanity to a series of computations and data points might be unsettling for some, at the end of the day, it’s comforting to recognize that the all-encompassing Internet can give even Buddha the anonymity he deserves.

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To make sure this was a real thing, I thought I’d look a statue up myself. It’s legit alright:

Statue of Liberty National Monument United States

Neat huh. The polar opposite of this would probably be when face recognition software fails to recognise [a] people:

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~ by Fionnlagh on October 3, 2014.

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