Privacy groups fear ‘serious threat’ from facial recognition app which could out gay subjects

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Privacy groups have expressed concern at a new facial recognition app as it could lead to LGBT subjects having information from multiple platforms linked against their wishes.

NameTag, a US-based app, which has the slogan: “Your photo shares you”, will soon come to iPhone, Android and jailbroken Google Glass devices.

The app allows users to search public databases, social media and dating sites using only a photograph of a subject in real-time.

Despite claims that it will allow users to opt-out of having their information searchable using the app, some readers and privacy groups have raised concerns over publicly available information being collected from several sites and linked against a subject’s will.

The app’s creator told PinkNews that “essentially, anyone who has posted their own public information online has, in effect, already opted-in,” and the app searches using a photograph.

Privacy groups have told PinkNews this could lead to, for example, publicly available information from a dating site which contains information on a subject’s sexuality, but that does not contain the real name of a subject, being matched to a Facebook profile which contains their real name, employment, address or contact information.

Despite having an opt-out option, it is not clear how users would know that their information was searchable using the app.

Mike Rispoli, Communications Manager of Privacy International told PinkNews: “Just because it is information that can be accessed, it is unjustifiable for this company to collect and share information without my consent. People make choices every day about what they share, to whom, and on what platforms. On one site, I may share my sexual orientation, but not my political beliefs. On another, maybe I’ll share the school I attended but not my home address. In the end, its about our choice and agency over what information we give out. Companies like NameTag that want to aggregate all this information and combine it with deeply-invasive technology like facial recognition software without our permission completely expose all of us to any stranger on the street.”

“Technology should strengthen, rather than undermine, our rights. Worryingly, NameTag seems to do the exact opposite. By apparently matching our face with other personal data from various sources, all without our consent, apps like this pose a serious threat to privacy and eradicates the anonymity of anyone walking down the street. Further, they make no mention of how this information was collected, how it is stored, for how long, and who else its shared with.

“They are kidding themselves that the primary user of such a system, if it was ever to work, would be some sweet person looking for a date. They seem to leave out all the other likely users: the police, private investigators, wanna-be stalkers, deranged people, or anyone seeking an unwanted romantic liaison.”

Kevin Tussy, NameTag’s creator told PinkNews that the app aims to allow users to scan photos of a subject in real-time and have access to any publicly available information from social media and more available, without having to do a Google search.

He said: “I want to stress that only already public information is shown, and we will let people control their profiles and opt out easily if they want. This app is for people that want to be recognized and want to meet others in this way. It’s not for people who wish to remain anonymous… unless you have been deemed by the courts to not have that right, ie. sex offenders.

“Essentially, anyone who has posted their own public information online has, in effect, already opted-in, A simple Google search will show you their info, therefore, we are using an opt-out strategy. Just like Google we store public information, we just help people access it in a new way. However, 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.”

The app is currently only available on jailbroken Google Glass devices, as Glass Developer Policies ban such apps from being available on devices using the Google store.

Directory sites currently exist which collate information between social media sites, however this appears to be the first which incorporates facial recognition software into its facilities.