Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) in a letter has asked the makers of the NameTag facial recognition app to to delay launching it untnil best practices for facial recognition technology are established.
NameTag recently announced the beta release of the app, which will allow Google Glass users to scan faces against social media and dating sites, as well as "450,000 registered sex offenders."
"NameTag can spot a face using Google Glass’ camera, send it wirelessly to a server, compare it to millions of records and in seconds return a match complete with a name, additional photos and social media profiles," the company said on its Web site.
Franken, chairman of the Senate Privacy Subcommittee, says he has serious concerns about the app, which allows people to collecting names, photos and dating website info from someone simply by looking at them with Google Glass, although the glasses would have to be "jailbroken" to override Google's ban on facial recognition apps.
Franken said Wednesday that by collecting that info apparently without someone's knowledge or consent "crosses a bright line for privacy and personal safety."
"It is easy to envision how this technology could facilitate harassment, stalking, and other threats to personal security," he said.
Franken's letter comes a day befor the National Telecommunications & Information Administration will hold its first in a series of stakeholder meetings to come up with facial recognition privacy standards as part of its ongoing effor to put some teeth in the Obama Administration's privacy bill of rights.
“There has been a great deal of misinformation regarding what the NameTag app will and will not do. We do not collect information from private online dating profiles or any information that has not already been made public by millions of users on social media or search engines,"said NameTag exec Kevin Allan Tussy, to whom Franken's letter was addressed. “No home addresses or personal phone numbers will be displayed on NameTag. No one under 18 years of age will knowingly be included. Most importantly, anyone that wishes to opt-out will be able to do so by visiting the NameTag site and filling out a brief form that will remain completely confidential.
Tussy continued: "Facial recognition technology is a reality. We understand that it carries the potential for the invasion of the privacy that Americans hold so dear. We are developing NameTag in a way that ensures the protection of those rights.
“It’s important to remember why the NameTag app was developed; not just to connect people, but also to protect them. Women are potentially vulnerable when they participate in online dating. With NameTag, they have the ability to scan someone against a database of more than 450,000 Registered Sex Offenders and become better informed. When parents hire a babysitter, they don’t always know with whom they are entrusting their children. With NameTag they will be able to keep their family safer. Consider the service providers we often let into our homes without a second thought or the new bookkeeper we are interviewing to handle our finances. These are situations where NameTag will be a tremendous service.
“As Senator Al Franken has stated ‘facial recognition technology could become a powerful and positive tool for public safety and private sector innovation. The key is to ensure that strong safeguards exist for privacy and civil liberties so that the benefits of these biometric technologies aren't outweighed by negative effects on privacy.’ We are committed to seeing NameTag live up to its potential while working diligently to protect the privacy rights of Americans.”