NameTag, a new app coming soon to Android and iOS, will allow users to search for people online using only their photograph—and its facial recognition capabilities have privacy advocates worried about social implications.
The app, which has the slogan “Your photo shares you,” will be capable of finding people on websites including social media, dating sites, and public databases; its creator, Kevin Tussy, told PinkNews, “essentially, anyone who has posted their own public information online has, in effect, already opted-in.”
Allegedly, NameTag has an opt-out option, but it’s uncertain how that would prevent individuals’ personal information from being searched by other people. Tussy did tell PinkNews, “if people don’t want their info connected to their face and to be accessed in-person through facial recognition, they can easily disable in-person facial recognition by telling us that is their preference,” but that still leaves many questions up in the air.
Tussy stated in a press release, “I believe that this will make online dating and offline social interactions much safer,” but privacy groups have pointed out that NameTag could actually put people in danger. For example, users can use NameTag to snap a picture of someone on the street and then find their Facebook profile with it, thus matching the picture to their real name, place of employment, and any contact information listed. If a person is signed up on a dating site that lists their orientation but not their real name, and hasn’t revealed their sexuality publicly, the app could easily be used to out them.
A source who preferred not to be named for this article said, “This app is a disaster. My identity is my business, thank you very much.”
Technically, there are already online directories that gather information from multiple social media sites, but NameTag seems to be the first to add facial recognition software to the mix.
The press release also mentions that NameTag “will allow users to scan photos against the more than 450,000 entries in the National Sex Offender Registry and other criminal databases,” thus offering some protection to its users.
But what happens when people need protection from those users?