January 8, 2019
It has happened to all of us. We run into somebody we know, but can’t match a name to the face.
Embarrassing? Yes. But now there’s a way to finesse the situation, thanks to the creators of SocialRecall, an app that uses smartphone cameras and facial recognition software to scan the features of your acquaintances—or even strangers at an event— and tell you their names.
“It breaks down these social barriers we all have in terms of initiating the protocol to meet somebody,” neuroscientist Barry Sandrew told Scientific American for its latest issue. Sandrew’s start-up, also called SocialRecall, created the app, and tested it at an event attended by about 1,000 people.
There are two versions of the app, the magazine reports: In one version, a user upload selfies that SocialRecall then uses to identify the person for other app users within the bounds of a specific geographic area, such as an event venue. Another version is designed for users with prosopagnosia, better known as face blindness. That version enables a user to tag images of his or her own friends so that the app can remind them of their names on the fly.
Privacy concerns? SocialRecall says it deletes obsolete user data on the event version of the app, and that data for the other version is only stored on a user’s phone.
But, Scientific American notes, privacy experts remain concerned that the app represents a widespread rollout of technology that could have profound implications for the future of public spaces— and that it’s difficult to adequately inform users about the long-term risks of a technology that’s still so new.
“The cost to everyone whom you are surveilling with this app is very, very high,” New York University law professor Jason Schultz told Scientific American, “and I don’t think it respects the consent politics involved with capturing people’s images.”
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