Facial recognition app helps you internet stalk that girl you saw on the bus

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

If this is true, it’s creepy.

An upcoming app for smartphones and Google Glass claims to let you take a photo of a complete stranger, and then automatically scan millions of photos uploaded to social networking and dating profiles to see if it can find a match.

The developers of the NameTag app, FacialNetwork, say that it will also allow users to “scan photos against the more than 450,000 entries in the National Sex Offender Registry and other criminal databases”.

Facial recognition on commute

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There are obvious huge privacy and law-and-order concerns raised by a facial recognition app like this.

Of course, the makers of NameTag aren’t presenting it as a godsend for stalkers and vigilantes who want to inflict their own justice on possible paedophiles.

Instead, they’re suggesting it will help people make safer choices when dating in real-life.

The NameTag app’s press release explains further:

“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.”

No longer will social media be limited to the screens of desktops, tablets and smartphones. 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.

The developers say that they are presently adding technology to allow the scanning of profile photos from popular dating sites, such as PlentyOfFish, OkCupid and Match.com.

What isn’t at all clear from the NameTag website is whether you will have to opt-in to have any freak in the street able to tell who you are and your relationship status, or whether the site plans to force people to opt-out of the creepy feature.

We have to hope, for the privacy of all of us, it is the former.

Example of NameTag profile

Versions of the NameTage app are said to be in the works for iPhones, Android devices and Google Glass users (known as “Glassholes” to many).

One piece of good news is that, according to its developer policies, Google does not allow software that uses facial recognition to be included into its Google Glass App store, so NameTag may find it hard to gain a huge audience on that platform at least. (Although, of course, it’s always possible the software could be installed on rooted devices)

Meanwhile, perhaps the best advice I can give you, is to take greater care over what photos you share publicly on social networks – and ensure that your privacy settings are properly set to reduce the chances of your picture ending up accessible to an app’s facial recognition database.

What do you think about apps like this? Leave a comment below

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

15 comments on “Facial recognition app helps you internet stalk that girl you saw on the bus”

  1. Will

    It's a creepy and utterly disturbing thought to be living in a world like that. It is the utterly stupid ones amoung us, that think they need Google glasses, NameTag app and the likes to live a worthy life. Month by month, I find myself getting more and more upset with this breed of stupid people, and makes me think "well, f**k your life too!". But what is there to be done about it. "Whooo, we should not regulate" of course (until it's too late). Anyone wearing a GoogleGlass or abusing his NameTag app on me, will certainly get my punch in his face. I'm litterally done with it.

  2. " (Although, of course, it’s always possible the software could be installed on rooted devices)"

    Software can be installed from 3rd party App store without root if you allow it in Android settings.

  3. Jon Fukumoto

    Creepy indeed. What is the developer thinking? I consider this an invasion of privacy. I would be very vocal to anyone wearing Google Glass who's looking directly at me to shut the thing off. I consider Google Glass a serious privacy threat, and I would file a class-action lawsuit against Google for distributing a device capable of invasing one's privacy.

  4. Tin Eye

    You mean something like this: http://www.tineye.com/search/2b4570503d35b58963e8a1b1ddbb419b12e1d897/

    1. Graham CluleyGraham Cluley · in reply to Tin Eye

      No-one would ever be interested in stalking that guy…

  5. Ted B

    They're making this an opt-out; I can't think of a better case of something that should be opt-in instead.

    Why should I sign up on a site whose security I don't know anything about and have no reason to trust to opt out of a product that exists to aggregate and publish information about me?

  6. Nick

    Despite the cons of such an app, I can see this being very useful.

    You could take a picture of a girl you want to talk to, and find out if she is single or not just by her facebook profile, etc. That way you save time talking to her.

    You could also use this on photos taken from the internet. But I don't think it would be accurate enough. Even law enforcement has a hard time with facial recognition and sometimes has to virtually rotate the person's head in a 3d model.

    1. Steven Brown · in reply to Nick

      "Despite the cons" You then go on to list
      what is probably one of the biggest cons as a pro.

  7. Mirror shades and ubiquitous hoodies will become the norm
    when out in public

  8. This is very creepy, but isn't it illegal to take
    someone's photo without their consent?

  9. Artie Fischel

    This is not all that creepy. I mean, you let your friends
    take your picture. You let them post it on Facebook and tag you.
    What did you think was going to happen? No one would look at it?
    Did you think facial recognition software wasn't go to
    become a commodity, unlike every other technical advance?
    Don't blame the developer if you have imprudently posted
    every moment of your life for all the world to see.

  10. Israel P.

    This may help the hijab business.

  11. Bill Blagger

    Surely those will evil intent will use false names, change
    their appearance and even post false details on their (fake) FB

    1. Graham CluleyGraham Cluley · in reply to Bill Blagger

      You may have missed the point.

      The person who is at risk is the member of the public who has their photo taken without permission by the NameTag user, not the malicious NameTag user themselves.

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