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Google Glass NameTag App: Does Facial Recognition Technology Make Online Dating Too Creepy?

By Melanie Ehrenkranz on February 10, 2014 4:09 PM EST 0

NameTag
The Google Glass app NameTag uses facial recognition technology to allow users to scan a stranger's photo and pull up their social media profiles in seconds. (Photo: NameTag)

A Google Glass app designed to improve online dating just launched, and it's already receiving more heat than "Sex with Glass." Dubbed NameTag, the first facial recognition app lets users take photos of strangers and pull up their social media profiles. For those with the wearable headsets, a crowded room of strangers can be transformed into a real-life Match.com database by simply winking a photo of an unfamiliar face. Don't go cutting eye holes into a paper bag just yet - there are still quite a few barriers that prevent the NameTag app from going mainstream.

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For starters, Google's Glass Developer Policies ban any sort of facial recognition technology on Glassware. This means that NameTag is currently available on Glass for Beta testers only (unless of course you have a jailbroken device). Additionally, privacy fears have put off the Glass app's widespread release. Among these worriers is Senator Al Franken (D-MN), who has spoken out against the Google Glass app. Franken published an open letter to the NameTag team voicing his concern of facial recognition tech.

"Unlike other biometric identifiers such as iris scans and fingerprints, facial recognition is designed to operate at a distance, without the knowledge or consent of the person being identified," he wrote. "Individuals cannot reasonably prevent themselves from being identified by cameras that could be anywhere - on a lamppost across the street, attached to an unmanned aerial vehicle, or, now, integrated into the eyewear of a stranger."

Is NameTag truly creepy, or is its reputation falsely proceeding it? To fairly determine this, it's important to note exactly how the new Google Glass app works. According to the NameTag site, users can paste the URL of an image, upload a photo from the device, scan from a smartphone or Google Glass, or type a name into the app (meaning it's as easy as scanning a stranger's face or uploading a photo). The facial recognition software then processes facial data points and compares them to millions of records in the database. Within seconds, the NameTag app will send a match to the user complete with a name, additional photos as well as social media profiles.

"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 NameTag's creator 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."

For those of you reading this through masquerades and wrestling masks, Tussy further explains that the NameTag app will soon allow for users to customize the amount of information available to future soulmates slash stalkers.

"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. 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. NameTag can make the big, anonymous world we live in as friendly as a small town."

The question remains - is facial recognition for the sake of dating an invasion of privacy? NameTag does list several redeeming qualities of the facial recognition software - the technology will also allow users to scan through more than 450,000 entries in the National Sex Offender Registry and other criminal databases. That's great for Glass Explorers interested in scouring the town for their ideal date. The issue lies in the prey, though. Most people don't want to wonder if every person staring at them with a wearable camera is simultaneously browsing their Facebook profile photos.

However, with the right restrictions in place, maybe more people will warm up to the new Google Glass app. Bringing online dating offline has become less taboo with the mainstream use of online dating apps such as Tinder, Grouper and Coffee Meets Bagel. Until then, the collective feedback for NameTag is that it's "creepy." Though, if you are interested, you can request access to the beta of NameTag on the app website now. What do you think? Let us know in the comment section.

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