Google Glass Facial Recognition App Raises Red Flag, Lawmaker Says

The Google Glass app NameTag, which lets people put names to faces of passersby, raises “deep concern,” Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) says in a letterto Kevin Alan Tussy, CEO of FacialNetwork.com.

“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.

Tags: google, privacy
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5 comments about "Google Glass Facial Recognition App Raises Red Flag, Lawmaker Says".
  1. Steve Plunkett from Rockfish , February 7, 2014 at 11:32 a.m.
    Why don't they have returning veterans walk around randomly and use these databases to find wanted criminals?
  2. Pete Austin from Triggered Messaging , February 7, 2014 at 12:47 p.m.
    @Steve Because face recognition systems are not 100% accurate. If the app is 99% accurate outdoors (this level used to require controlled conditions, see link) then if a returning vet walks down a busy street past entirely innocent people, they are going to quickly get a lot of false matches and try to arrest them. http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2013/facial-recognition-technology-proves-its-mettle/
  3. Jerry Shereshewsky from GrownUpMarketing , February 7, 2014 at 1:25 p.m.
    This technology is god's gift to those of us with poor facial recognition abilities at things like trade shows, industry events etc. The President has people walking or standing next to them on things like receiving lines to remind him about who's hand he is shaking. A small red light telling you the camera is on ought to be sufficient to warn off undesired peeks.
  4. Theresa M. Moore from Antellus , February 7, 2014 at 2:18 p.m.
    Unfortunately, Google has never read "1984" by Orwell. This new app certainly smacks of a severe invasion of privacy, and as far as I am concerned it is nobody's business what I look like, where I live or any other intel which would be of use to any criminal on the planet. Google is already in doubt as a corporation used to having its way, no matter how many sections of the UCC it violates in its quest to "service" users. First it scans books without permission and now this. There is already enough slavery in the 21st century without having a search engine like Google add to the problem.
  5. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , February 7, 2014 at 7:58 p.m.
    We all need to learn how the Nazis rose to power. Give a little here, a little there....If they had this technology at that time, what do you think the world would look like now ? How long do you think other despotic corporations and governments to have this and other Google privacy barriers ? Do you want to be controlled by them, not that you will ever have a choice ?