Privacy Concerns Aren't Stopping the Facial-Recognition Trend

People don't seem to care that the technology could be used for evil

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As Facebook takes heat for its facial-recognition software, other companies are attracting users with the very same technology. Just yesterday, Germany declared the feature illegal, as we reported, and its neighboring countries don't feel so great about the tech either. Yet, Americans seem to be loving the advancement. "Advanced technologies that identify faces now are emerging as the hottest entertainment gimmick, despite the potential for privacy concerns," reports the Wall Street Journal's Emily Steele. Even amid the hullabaloo over the possible evil, people have found the technology useful and entertaining, gravitating towards these apps and seemingly ignoring the privacy problems.

"Initial deployments of the technology were largely for law enforcement, security and surveillance," but as main-stream cameras have become more sophisticated, these more sophisticated facial recognition tools have become more accessible to the general public, explains Steele.  Now Facebook and apps like SocialCamera, FaceR Celebrity and SceneTap,  which uses information collected via face-detection cameras to displays real-time stats at your local bar, have adopted the tech.

And people like it. Over 30,000 people have downloaded FaceR Celebrity and company called Viewdle is developing a television set that will use the technology to customize programming to the individual sitting in front of the set. These development show that facial recognition has passed niche statue. "We're at a tipping point where some of these face-recognition technologies are not just gimmicks but are becoming useful," Jason Mitura, chief product officer at Viewdle told Steele. "The TV begins to entertain you because it knows who you are."

But, even as uses for facial recognition gain popularity, the same privacy concerns that Facebook's feature has garnered will also apply to these apps. Facebook's feature can be used to detect social security numbers, the Wall Street Journal reported, making Facebook look more and more like an identification service, as we noted.

For now, these features don't seem to use their information for evil. But they could. "From a technology standpoint, I would be lying to say that is not possible. But there are a lot of bridges that need to be crossed," Cole Harper, chief executive at SceneTap admitted to Steele.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.