If at first you don’t succeed, fail spectacularly

This made me laugh:

The deeply serious spooks tried to spare the sensibilities of their employees by employing automatic image porn filters. Unfortunately naive porn filters block images on the basis of how much of the picture consists of flesh tones. In the case of video conference calls, this turns out to be too much: they were getting lots of false positives (images classified as pornographic that were not in fact so), and as the whole point of the program was to trial face recognition software in order to detect Bad People Discussing Terrorism On The Internet, this was a bit of a problem.

Mass data collection doesn’t work, but this is the funniest example of failure to date.

4 thoughts on “If at first you don’t succeed, fail spectacularly

  1. It’s true that there are plenty of cases of this sort of thing out there. This one struck me as particularly funny though 🙂

    I also think that there is a lot of value in highlighting cases of data collection failing to achieve the claimed aims. All too often the debate is presented as a need to balance privacy against security but, as we see over and over again, this balance is a myth. Mass surveillance doesn’t make us any safer which means that we are being asked to give up our privacy for nothing.


  2. In addition to the joy (!) these cases give us, programmes/policies/etc being laughed at can maybe be more efficient (as in impact) critique than plain “serious” critique 🙂


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