“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,” Franken writes. “This is apparently done without that person's knowledge or consent, which crosses a bright line for privacy and personal safety.”
He is asking Tussy to hold off on releasing the app until after the Commerce Department releases best practices for facial recognition technology. He adds that the feature should only identify people who have opted in.
For his part, Tussy says the app allows people to opt out of having information about them displayed, but that doing so will require visiting the NameTag site and completing a form.
Tussy goes on to tout the app's supposed safety features, arguing that it can “protect” users by scanning the faces of potential dates -- or employees, babysitters, etc. -- in order to see if they appear in other databases. “Women are potentially vulnerable when they participate in online dating. With NameTag, they have the ability to scan someone against a database of more than 450,000 Registered Sex Offenders and become better informed,” he states. “When parents hire a babysitter, they don’t always know with whom they are entrusting their children. With NameTag they will be able to keep their family safer.”
Needless to say, that logic is questionable at best: People can be dangerous without appearing on lists of registered sex offenders; and parents might do better by asking for references of babysitters than relying on an app.
In his letter, Franken goes on to remind Tussy that Google officially prohibits facial recognition technology on Glass. (Despite the ban, NameTag says on its site that it's available in beta.) “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,” he writes.
He asks the company to respond to a series of questions, including how it plans to get around Google's official policy, whether the app draws on Facebook photos, and whether his company plans to develop the app for smartphones.