How would you feel about total strangers using facial recognition technology to access your facebook page, perform a criminal record check and learn where you worked or lived? Facial developed an app, currently being tested by Google Glass that does just that. Heralded as the most advanced facial recognition technology outside national security’s bag of tricks – NameTag asks “Why leave meeting amazing people up to chance?” urging us to “simply snap a pic of someone you want to connect and see their entire online presence in one place”. Forget informed consent and privacy settings – if you’ve put it online, all bets are off.

Why mess around with pedestrian snooping – quaintly innocent Google name searches are for sissies. Who needs a name when soon we’ll be able to creep into lives of unsuspecting strangers. Imagine the fun marginally stable stalkers can have – second thoughts and hesitation be damned. Think of facial “tagging” – data bases of hits bought and sold for marketing.

Consider other facial recognition applications – 115 Japanese stores use facial recognition technology to alert shopkeepers when a shoplifter, or my favorite “complainer” enters the premise. Complainers have no say in the matter.

Want a date? and Plenty of Fish can eliminate awkward first encounters – run your crush through the sexual offender and criminal data bases – false positives and mismatches needn’t concern you, mistakes happen all the time.  No skin off your back – tell all your friends, spread the name around, after all you have proof – your CreepSheild app told you so. CreepSheild takes the position all queries must give results; call it the “closest approximation syndrome”. Up pops a face and name – skittish users dismiss 45% probability as a minor detail.

As for NameTag – Google Glass says the program is only available for beta testers – Google announced this is where it stays (making it clear they felt it contravened privacy rules) That said, a little digging around produced numerous invitations to download NameTag.

A little ray of sunshine promises an option to “opt out” – so far all I can find are vague references to “soon” being able to scream no thanks by creating a NameTag opt out profile. Far from thrilling is the idea we have to give up personal information to supposedly dodge uninvited peepers.

Before long, no one alive will know privacy. Problem solving, mystery, discovery, patience, solitude – all lost to gimmicks touted as revolutionary. We don’t need to “connect” with strangers after peering in their dusty corners. Technology aimed at dysfunctional social media junkies doesn’t make the world a better place, all it does is eradicate foundations of human interaction.

Until recently, “big brother” was a concept with definable parameters. Disturbing, hard to digest, yet able to reside in well lit corners of my mind.  I recognized where it came from, how it was able to infiltrate, and why we shouldn’t take our eyes off it. Suddenly a rogue upstart arrives – disguising itself as salvation. The government at least tries to pass itself off as a necessary evil – NameTag only wants to make money. Pondering unregulated, profit driven privacy violations raises absurdity to a whole new level.



Perception of Privacy

We were out for dinner with our daughter last night and the conversation landed on Google Glass. For anyone who hasn’t heard of Google Glass, this is a concept known as ubiquitous computing; the idea of fitting computers to every day objects rather than people having to go to computers. Android and smart phones already fill this bill, in many ways eliminating the need for bulky desktops.Google Glass aims to take this a step further by allowing the user to interface with a pair of sunglasses. Google is in talks with manufacturers like Ray Ban, but adds that their goal is for this modular device to attach itself to prescription glasses as well.

Our daughter enthused about the concept for a few minutes, until my husband asked her if she realized the problem with them. A moment of silence followed, we could see her impatience grow – just short of rolling her eyes she relented and asked what the problem might be.

He explained how Google Glass put the GPS in our phones to shame. This device would allow not only our position but every word we spoke, person we met, or conversation we had to be on record. Google Glass is “big brothers” dream come true. A birds eye view of everything we did in a day.

I’ve had a day to ponder her reaction and conclude there was nothing exceptional about it. As alarming as it seemed to my husband and myself, I’ve realized we hail from an era where privacy was truly private. Not that there was the slightest hint of privacy around the single land line in the kitchen, at least when leaving the house I was untraceable. My children have never lived in a world where they didn’t “ping” off a cell phone tower or instant message their friends. Every purchase we make is tracked by store point cards, we “like” on facebook to receive coupons or join discount clubs, we customize the news received – all carefully monitored and digested by big business.

I have nothing against progress – simply hoping we realize the price we pay. My perception of privacy is based on impossibly outdated concepts; I can’t expect my children to understand the freedom of complete privacy. nor could I resist the opportunity to point out the perils of yet another privacy robbing device.