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Communications of the ACM


Hello, My Name Is . . .

Stephen Balaban of Lambda Labs

Stephen Balaban, a co-founder of Lambda Labs, which has created an open-source facial recognition API for Google Glass.

Credit: Cyrus Farivar / Ars Technica

On December 18, 2013, a company called Facial drew outcries from privacy advocates by announcing the release of the first real-time facial recognition app for Google Glass, a wearable computer being developed by Google. Called "Nametag," the app, the company announced, would use Google Glass's camera to spot a face in the crowd and then identify it within seconds, displaying the person's name, additional photos, and social media profiles.

Facial recognition technology is already used in a variety of applications, such as preventing passport fraud or unlocking a smartphone simply by looking at it. Nametag, however, opens up a new and potentially paradigm-changing prospect: the idea of being able to immediately identify any stranger walking down the street, without his knowledge or consent.


Kevin Finnigin

I had a difficult time understanding the broad privacy concerns alluded to in this article. I can certainly imagine specific instances of abuse such as the one mentioned in the article about victims of domestic violence. However, after reading the article, I immediately thought about a small town where everyone knows everyone. On a fundamental level, I can not see the difference between this scenario and a scenario where facial recognition devices are ubiquitous in a large urban city. I would appreciate some enlightenment from someone versed on the privacy concerns of facial recognition software, particularly as it relates to public spaces.

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