Feb 5 2014, 5:55pm CST | by Forbes
Google said years ago that facial recognition (of strangers) is the one technology it’s holding back because it’s creepy. It has told developers for Google Glass that it doesn’t want them incorporating it into apps, but at least two groups have said they’ve done it and that people will be able to use it on jailbroken Google Glasses (or, Glassi?). NameTag, an app from FacialNetwork.com, has been more aggressive in marketing their “Minority Report For Dating” service, telling journalists that it will pull info and photos from dating sites like Match and OkCupid, sex offender databases, and from people willing to upload their information to the site. In other words, it wants to make this cartoon come true.
Sen. Al Franken, one of the most recognizable faces in the Senate, has been voicing concerns about the use of the technology by the FBI and companies like Facebook for years. So it’s no surprise that he’s unhappy about the Nevada-based NameTag’s plans. He sent a letter to app creator Kevin Alan Tussey expressing his “deep concern” and asking him to delay the app’s launch.
“According to promotional materials, NameTag lets strangers get a broad range of personal information—including a person’s name, photos, and dating website profiles—simply by looking at that person’s face with the Glass camera,” writes Franken. “This is apparently done without that person’s knowledge or consent, which crosses a bright line for privacy and personal safety.”
We may well be heading toward a world in which facial recognition is as ubiquitous (and maybe as welcome) as caller i.d., but Franken wants Tussey to hold off until the law catches up with what technology is capable of.
“NameTag purports to make ‘the big, anonymous world we live in as friendly as a small town,’” writes Franken. “But there can be safety in anonymity, and for many people, letting strangers identify them by name is a threat to that safety.”
The senator does point out that what NameTag wants to do isn’t actually illegal, even if privacy-lovers find it ugly and Google has forbidden it on their platforms. “No specific federal law governs this technology, so early adopter companies such as yours will play a vital role in determining the extent to which privacy and personal safety are protected,” writes Franken. ” Your company has a duty to act as a responsible corporate citizen in deploying this technology, which must be done in a manner that respects and protects individual privacy.”
Franken urges NameTag to make its service opt-in, so that people will only be recognized with it if they choose. The company has not yet responded to a request for comment.
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