How one tech start-up is jumping the shark on Internet privacy.
When it comes to privacy, Silicon Valley ranks up there with Washington as one of the worst violators. If you’ve ever used Facebook or Gmail, your personal information is retained regardless of whether or not you erased the information or hid it, or even if you completely deactivated or deleted your account. There is no such thing as Internet privacy. That’s a well known fact, and the legal argument can be made that by signing up for these services and agreeing to their ToS, you agree to let Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, or any other website you have a log-in for, have their way with your personal information for purposes of increasing their revenue. Fine, whatever – just give me pictures of English bulldogs and I’ll try to pretend that your system didn’t just suggest I like Cheerios’ Facebook page because I Googled “cereal”. But there was always going to be a point where technology companies crossed the line, and it was only a matter of when it would happen. Well – its happened.
There’s a new app for smartphones and Google Glass that’s set to launch soon, and it’s entire premise has Crystal Eastman rolling in her grave. NameTag seeks to “connect people” in an extremely unorthodox way:
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Connect your info and interests with the world by simply sharing your most unique feature – your face. Nametag links your face to a single, unified online presence that includes your contact information, social media profiles, interests, hobbies and passions and anything else you want to share with the world.
Using the NameTag smartphone or Google Glass app, simply snap a pic of someone you want to connect with and see their entire public online presence in one place.
So, essentially, someone who you don’t even see on a crowded subway or in the grocery store can take a picture of you, and from that picture, find out your name, where you work, where you live, your cell phone number, or anything that you may have posted to various social media sites. Kevin Alan Tussy of FacialNetwork, parent company of NameTag and other facial recognition technologies such as “FaceVault”, “Citzen Score”, and “Neighborhood Watch”, tried to explain in a press release that it’s not an issue of privacy at all (via CNET Australia):
“People will soon be able to login to www.NameTag.ws and choose whether or not they want their name and information displayed to others,” he said. “It’s not about invading anyone’s privacy; it’s about connecting people that want to be connected. We will even allow users to have one profile that is seen during business hours and another that is only seen in social situations.”
So, essentially, if you don’t want some random creep (whose interaction with you goes as far as “that time we were both at the hot bar in Whole Foods”) finding your personal information, you have to actually create a NameTag profile to opt-out of the service. Unbelievable. In the US, NameTag will also scan photos against criminal databases and the National Sex Offender Registry, which is a feature of some of FacialNetwork’s other apps, to make sure that the person you’re creeping on isn’t a creep themselves.
It’s really only a matter of time before this app results in stalking or an assault. And the fact that NameTag is making any American who has ever used a social network sign up for their service to avoid being a target is absolute insanity. At the very least, FacialNetwork has got to make this service something you opt-in to rather than opt-out of. And if the creators choose not to make this adjustment? Well, here’s how you can contact your local Congressman.
(Note from the author: Google thankfully has not approved facial recognition apps – however, the product would still be able to be used on jailbroken Google Glasses. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) has already sent a letter to Tussy asking him to delay the app.)
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