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Tech Talk

Networking replaces privacy with Nametag-ware

1/29/2014

Privacy is officially dead. Never mind domestic spying by the National Security Agency or social network over-sharing; those threats can only stalk you online. The real-world, real-time menace is facial-recognition software that can connect strangers to your online social presence without your knowledge.

To this point, facial-recognition software has primarily been used in the consumer venue by online photo services to help users automatically identify people in pictures, which is a fairly innocent tool, but it was only a matter of time before a company connected the super-computers in our pockets to the boundless dossier of personal information volunteered online, and that company is Nametag.

As if pulled straight out a scene from “The Terminator” movies, Nametag software allows smartphone and Google Glass users to snap a picture of any face they see, and, within seconds, match it to online profile images such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. The Nametag user doesn’t need to know you or even be friends with you online, if a picture of your face shows up in a common Web search there is a good chance you will be identified.

Nametag propagates its software as a way to connect people with whom users might share interests and might not otherwise meet. See someone at a local coffee shop who looks cool? “Nametag” him or her, and discover you’re both interested in Italian roast coffee. Still, every tool has the prescribed use and the nefarious off-label use. The obvious concern being creeps who stalk random people they see out in public, but there are much greater concerns. What about burglars? Leave your home and someone covertly snaps a shot of you to discern if your house is worth breaking into.

Of course Nametag is not alone in this arena, FacialNetwork uses the same technology to scan dating networks, as well as the national sex offender registry.

Both Nametag and FacialNetwork promote their products as making the world friendlier and safer, but it’s hard to see how. Turning strangers into friends is great, but once this technology is commonplace, it will become much harder to find privacy in an already boundary-less world. CV               

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

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