A while back, an app called Peeple, which was literally described as a Yelp for people, hit. It sounded like satire, but it was legit, insofar as there was an app that was released… but it’s gotten little interest since. Now there’s a similar bad idea supposedly coming next week called “Facezam,” an app that uses facial recognition to find the Facebook profile of total strangers. But is it legit?
The basic idea is simple, and incredibly creepy. If you spot a stranger, you can snap a photo of them and Facezam’s facial recognition software will supposedly find their Facebook profile. If this sounds familiar, developers attempted to launch a similar app on Google Glass. And Facezam’s public representative, founder Jack Kenyon, sounds like a screenwriter’s idea of an app developer:
“Facezam could be the end of our anonymous societies,” said Jack Kenyon, founder of Facezam. “Users will be able to identify anyone within a matter of seconds, which means privacy will no longer exist in public society.”
Kenyon also claims that nobody can predict what might happen when the technology arrives on the market. Even though his website’s key marketing material literally predicts what might happen when the technology arrives on the market:
While this wouldn’t be the first time Silicon Valley has offered up some statement that’s utterly tone-deaf about your privacy, there are a few things about this story that should ring “VIRAL MARKETING, BRO!” bells. The first is that Facebook immediately stated this app violates its policies, which would shut down the app, and Facezam’s claims of 70% accuracy for facial recognition seem a bit grandiose. Facial recognition systems have turned out not be nearly as good as advertised, and it seems unlikely consumer technology could leapfrog a problem that law enforcement and spy agencies have struggled with.
The second is that there’s not a lot to Facezam as an entity. Facezam seems to have appeared out of thin air, suddenly, this week. It has no official Facebook, no Twitter feed, no YouTube. “Jack Kenyon” is a fairly generic name and there doesn’t appear to be any Kenyon on the internet willing to take credit for this app publicly, at least. There’s one email address on its official site. A quick check of WHOIS reveals the site was first created a few months ago, and the domain was found via a domain wholesaler with the domain registered to a privacy go-between. In other words, for an app that’s making a lot of noise about ending anonymity, whoever’s behind Facezam wants to stay anonymous.
Either way, this raises a good issue. We’re losing more and more of our privacy, something even Hollywood is taking note of with movies like The Circle on their way to theaters. One way or the other, seems Facezam is about to continue that conversation.