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NameTag: Facial recognition app criticized as creepy and invasive

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 A controversial new app that scans social media networks to identify strangers upon sight is raising privacy concerns. (NameTag/

If all goes well for the developers of a new facial recognition app, getting detailed personal information about a stranger in your midst could one day be as easy as glancing in their direction.

Released in beta for Google Glass last month, "NameTag" works by scanning the face of a person captured in Glass' video feed against photos from dating sites and social media networks to determine who they are - everything from their name and occupation, to their latest post on Instagram.

The app's creator,, says it uses "some of the most accurate facial recognition software in the world" to compare millions of public records, returning a stranger's name, additional photos, and links to their public social media profiles within seconds.

"No longer will social media be limited to the screens of desktops, tablets and smartphones," reads a press release issued by the company. "With the NameTag app running on Google Glass a user can simply glance at someone nearby and instantly see that person's name, occupation and even visit their Facebook, Instagram or Twitter profiles in real-time."

While currently only available to Google Glass beta testers, hopes to bring the app to smartphones in the future. This would allow users to snap photos of people around them, upload said photos to the app, and scan for personal information on the spot.

The company also claims its technology can let users scan more than 450,000 entries in the U.S. National Sex Offender Registry, potentially identifying another person's criminal background upon site.

"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," said NameTag's creator Kevin Alan Tussy. "Often we were interacting with people blindly or not interacting at all. NameTag on Google Glass can change all that."

Change things it could, but not if privacy advocates have their way.

Despite the company's claim that anyone can opt out of its database, many are discomforted by the idea that such a tool may exist in the first place.

Raffi Cavoukian, Canadian children's performer, author, and co-founder of a consumer protection group for children called Red Hood Project, has openly criticized the app on Twitter.

"You can't know how old someone is online in social media," Cavoukian, whose sister Ann Cavoukian is Ontario's privacy commissioner, told Metro News. His main concern is that the privacy and safety of children could be compromised.

"Millions of parents, and this is well known, lie about their kids' age, and put them on Facebook much younger than 13," he said. "This is a huge problem."

Lisa Vaas of the Sophos Naked Security blog expressed a similar sentiment, comparing NameTag to the controversial "Girls Around Me" app which was pulled in April of 2012 on privacy concerns.

 "It sounds as if the only way to control sensitive information is to join NameTag and create your own profile," she wrote. "The theoretical woman in the street, if she's made her phone number or address public anywhere online, won't be afforded that privacy control, in spite of never having opted in to this service."

The app's creators insist that privacy shouldn't be a concern, being that all of the information it scans is taken from public networks and profiles.

"It's not about invading anyone's privacy," said Tussy. "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."

 A sample profile provided by the app's creators on (NameTag/

Metro reports that the office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has yet to examine the app in depth, as neither the app or Google Glass are yet available in Canada.

Furthermore, Google has declared that it will not be supporting facial recognition technology for the final version of its Glass hardware - though, as the Independent notes, the device can be 'jailbroken' like a mobile phone and modified by a user.

Google's restrictions haven't deterred NameTag, however. plans on releasing its website and app this spring in hopes that Google will reconsider.

And if it doesn't?

"There will be many providers of augmented reality headsets and even if facial recognition is not supported by some, I'm confident that there will be solutions for such limitations," said Tussy.

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