nametag_1Smartphones might be good for e-reading, but soon they’ll be able to read your face, too.

Remember the uproar when Facebook announced plans to add face recognition identity tagging to its photos? It turned out only to be meant to tag people who you’d friended already, but to hear most people you’d have thought they were going to have their identities revealed to total strangers.

Well, CNET Australia now reports on a forthcoming app for Android, iOS, and Google Glass that could reveal your identity to total strangers. Called NameTag, the app will allow users to snap photos and then run them through a facial-recognition database to find that person’s social media profile (and, in the US, whether they’re on the National Sex Offender Registry and other criminal databases).

"I believe that this will make online dating and offline social interactions much safer and give us a far better understanding of the people around us," said FacialNetwork’s Kevin Alan Tussy. "It’s much easier to meet interesting new people when we can simply look at someone, see their Facebook, review their LinkedIn page or maybe even see their dating site profile. Often we were interacting with people blindly or not interacting at all. NameTag on Google Glass can change all that."

At present, Google doesn’t allow face-recognition apps into the Glass app store, but it’s always possible that could change. Even if the app doesn’t make it into app stores, you can still easily install third-party apps to Android, and I’d expect Glass to have the same gateway-in-the-walled-garden philosophy when it goes live. At least with smartphones you can easily tell when someone is snapping a photo of you.

The app will operate under an opt-out philosophy rather than opt-in. (Which makes sense from a usability perspective; the more inclusive the database is, the more useful the app will be, and almost nobody would bother to opt into something like this.)  Expect it to be controversial, and perhaps to be the target of privacy lawsuits, who knows.

Of course, when you get right down to it, if there’s one thing the NSA scandals have reinforced it’s that any kind of real privacy we enjoy on the Internet is illusory. Now some people can not only tell you are a dog, but what your pedigree is. Maybe it’s good to have something like this out in the open as a reminder to us to be careful what we post on the Internet. I’m honestly surprised nobody’s floated an app like this already; smartphones and the Internet have been around for how long?

Most people probably won’t see it that way, though.


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