Meet Recognizr: Creepiest Smartphone App Ever?

Worried your privacy is under siege now? Hoo boy. Check this out:

An application that lets users point a smart phone at a stranger and immediately learn about them premiered last Tuesday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Developed by The Astonishing Tribe (TAT), a Swedish mobile software and design firm, the prototype software combines computer vision, cloud computing, facial recognition, social networking, and augmented reality.

Translation: My phone. Pointed at your face. Pulling your information. Stalking, meet your future?


Here's how it works. Users opt in to the service and submit a photo to the computer-vision program, called Recognizr. If I point my phone at you, Recognizr scans your face, sends a 3-D model signature to a server which matches the face to a photo in its database, and sends back the name along with social media links, including your Facebook and Twitter account. Creeped out yet?

Sure, but I'm hardly alarmed. After all, it would be opt in and I don't know anybody who would opt in. On smart phones, I can already access the Twitter feeds and Facebook profiles of people I know. That means that this app is uniquely designed to learn about strangers within my line of sigh who, in turn, want random strangers to look up their information. Talk about self-selection bias: the early adopting Recognizr family is going to be a cesspool of creeps and oversharers. I'm willing to hear arguments that I'm being a Luddite here, but this product seems too weird to contemplate.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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