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Through a Face Scanner Darkly 336

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-know-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with a story that raises the issue of how public anonymity is quickly disappearing thanks to facial recognition technology. "NameTag, an app built for Google Glass by a company called, offers a face scanner for encounters with strangers. You see somebody on the sidewalk and, slipping on your high-tech spectacles, select the app. Snap a photo of a passerby, then wait a minute as the image is sent up to the company's database and a match is hunted down. The results load in front of your left eye, a selection of personal details that might include someone's name, occupation, Facebook and/or Twitter profile, and, conveniently, whether there's a corresponding entry in the national sex-offender registry."
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Through a Face Scanner Darkly

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  • by mbone (558574) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @09:53PM (#46137093)

    Phillip K. Dick, "A Scanner Darkly," 1977. One of the main plot points is that the protagonist, a police informant, has to keep his true identity a secret from everyone, including his police handlers.

  • by femtobyte (710429) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @10:02PM (#46137139)

    And the book title is itself a biblical reference to 1 Corinthians 13:12, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (King James Version) --- but I doubt the summary titler was alluding quite that far back.

  • Cultural literacy (Score:5, Informative)

    by Okian Warrior (537106) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @10:28PM (#46137299) Homepage Journal

    E.D. Hirsch coined the term "cultural literacy" [] to describe aspects of culture which have meaning that goes beyond the basic words.

    An example from his book [] is the phrase "there is a tide".

    Those four words carried not only a lot of complex information, but also the persuasive force of a proverb. In addition to the basic practical meaning, "act now!" what came across was a lot of implicit reasons why immediate action was important.

    For some of my younger readers who may not recognize the allusion, the passage from Julius Caesar is:

            There is a tide in the affairs of men
            Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune;
            Omitted, all the voyage of their life
            Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
            On such a full sea are we now afloat,
            And we must take the current when it serves,
            Or lose our ventures.

    The phrase "A Scanner Darkly" was the title of a book (and movie) by Phillip K. Dick. It's part of the cultural literacy of science fiction, something that nerds might recognize. As in Hirsch's example, a few words convey a great deal of complex information.

    The story title comes from the bible, "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.", which artfully describes a system that identifies and footnotes faces seen through Google glass.

    Cultural literacy references come into and go out of style, and Phillip K. Dick may be a bit dated for today's audience.

    If you're interested, there are a few online "Cultural Literacy" tests, such as this one [].

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @10:41PM (#46137357)

    Maybe we should update our privacy laws and stop allowing companies and the government to store all this information about us in shitty databases to begin with.


    When even the cops use these databases on on other cops [] you know the only solution is to stop building the databases in the first place.

    Stalking pretty girls makes for a good visceral story, but the larger problem is one of political repression -- essentially using these databases to make it harder for political upstarts to instigate change, basically co-opting democracy.

    BTW, that same database the cops used to stalk other cops? Also used to stalk political candidates. []

  • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @10:49PM (#46137413)

    "...and then having to dig through your memory to try to remember who they are (failing miserably) while acting like you know exactly who they are."

    I'd rather trust my own memory then out-source it.

    For fuck sake people, are you listening to yourselves? This is a corporation literally trying to turn people into mobile data gathering devices. You are either deluding yourself about your own level of intelligence, or suffer from a serious lack of morality, if you think any of this is acceptable. Every person on this planet values privacy to some degree--What, exactly, do we really get in exchange for the loss of this privacy? Knowledge we could get by simply asking that person?

    THINK, PEOPLE. If history is any sort of an indicator, any rights we sell today, our children must buy back with blood.

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Sunday February 02, 2014 @11:50PM (#46137703) Journal

    Of course, the whole registry thing is simply to convince suburban housewives that evil is always lurking around the corner, and that they should be perpetually afraid of events with little statistical significance. But we're not talking about terrorism, this time.

    I hate to say this but a lot of people on the registered offender lists might be innocent of what you or I would consider a sexual offense. I know of a person who stopped to take a piss on the way walking home from a bar and because it was close to a school (which was empty because it was 3 am), he had to fight charges that would have put him on the list. I think it cost him around $25k in lawyers and fighting the charges in order to not be on the list. I know of another, an 18 year old kid who was dating some chick in his math class (high school). They dated since he was 16 but she was more then 2 years difference in age so when he turned 18, a concerned neighbor turned them in and he went up on statutory gross sexual imposition charges which definitely put him on the list. The neighbor, who after discussing ways to please a man with this 15 year old girl, was appalled to find out her boyfriend of 2 years was 18 years old now and she wouldn't be 16 for another 3 months so she promptly reported the situation to children's protective services. He was a good kid and everyone who knew them went in as character references during the trial but it didn't seem to matter as it was a statutory thing and the judge's hands were tied (so he said).

    They have changed the law a bit in the years since then, but if it happened that easily, I'm sure there are more people wearing the label that do not deserve it. There are likely a lot of people who do deserve it, but I'm not sure the classifications are rational enough to be concerned over someone who has to register.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday February 03, 2014 @12:01AM (#46137771)
    In some states you don't even have to be near a school. And there are other things that can get you on the list.

    For example: you live in a state where the age of consent is 16, but you live near the border with a state where it is 18. (Yes, it is 16 in some states and in others lower still.) You go across the border on a weekend to go boating, or skiing, or something... forgetting where you are, you get caught by somebody in an intimate situation.

    You guessed it... a lifetime on an offender registry for doing something that would have been perfectly legal just a mile away.
  • by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Monday February 03, 2014 @02:01AM (#46138375)

    You guessed it... a lifetime on an offender registry for doing something that would have been perfectly legal just a mile away.

    It's even worse than that. From a state where the age of consent is higher, go to one where it's lower for a weekend, perform an act that would have been legal in that state if you were a resident, go home and get arrested for the "crime" of transporting a minor across state lines for the purpose of sex.

    People like nothing better than to get outraged about sex.

  • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Monday February 03, 2014 @04:01AM (#46138721)

    Spiegal Online apparently did a full release of images from each of the two document leaks--far more complete than the Wikipedia pages.

    Scroll down for the images and "straight from the horse's mouth" descriptions of capabilities. []

    Example---"NIGHTSTAND: Portable system that wirelessly installs Microsoft Windows exploits from a distance of up to eight miles" (I have a feeling it's been updated for Win7/8 by now)

    http://leaksource.files.wordpr... []

    And....the guys developing and putting to use these capabilities. []

    Make sure to check out the links at the bottom of that last page.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Monday February 03, 2014 @06:15AM (#46139101)
    because the enemy hide in burkas. []

It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do. -- Jerome Klapka Jerome