Overheard on CNN.com: Will facial recognition usher in 'Star Trek' tech?
CNN.com readers discussed the implications of a new facial recognition technology for the Google+ social network.
December 9th, 2011
06:24 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Will facial recognition usher in 'Star Trek' tech?

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

"This will be a hit with crazy exes."

Google has introduced a social facial recognition technology called Find My Face. The tagging suggestion tool works in the Google+ social network. Google says the feature includes privacy protection tools. But readers expressed concerns and imagined dystopian scenarios that could occur in the near future. Others wondered if we are marching toward a lifestyle out of science fiction.

Google unveils 'Find My Face' tool

The idea behind Find My Face reminded many readers of scenes they'd seen in popular culture, most notably in science fiction.

ss1980: "Google says 'Don't be afraid of us,' eh? It's like 'Trust me," I'll take your money and it won't hurt at all. Reminds me of 'V – Visitors', the movie :-)"

LFNJR: "True, but the V-queen was hot (scary hot, but still.) Who hasn't fallen for that scam. If they find a girl to sell cell phones, they find her clone to sell more."

Some said Google shouldn't bother creating this technology, even with built-in privacy mechanisms.

iEvolved: "If ensuring privacy is a concern, then don't implement this in the first place."

Some wondered if they could get legal protection for their images, or if they would have to wear disguises if they wanted to hide from detection.

mosqjm: "We should all push to have a law passed where we can copyright our faces and have a right to collect royalties every time a photo of us gets posted by someone other than us or acquired and stored by public cameras. This facial recognition stuff will lend itself to abuse. Imagine that you are trying to hide from the mob or some other organization, and they hack into the public cameras that are all over the place now. They can use that facial recognition stuff to find you. They can also scan Facebook and other sites to figure out who your acquaintances are, and then go after them to get to you. This stuff is scary, scary, scary."

newFuture2: "I agree. You would have to wear a face mask, or cut yourself to disguise your identity, or add a fake mole... this is scary... who wants a fake mole?"

Charlie Callahan: "I often wear a paper bag over my head, but a word of caution: cut eyeholes in it first. You should see my knees from falling over crap."

Many pointed out that they are afraid of tracking, and others mentioned tracking is already taking place.

BlindEyes: "How long do we have until they start tracking us like this in malls and other public places? A company could set up a camera and get the life details of anyone who entered their doors at the end up the day. They already have the ability to track you with by following your cell phone signal around a mall to see what stores you enter and how long you stay. I don't like the direction that this is taking."

uniblob: "Other than your anxiety that this is somehow damaging; what actual problem has this caused for you?"

mrbluiis: "Let's see...if it weren't for the numerous violations of trust and privacy with our information, that Facebook has proven over the years, it should be the mere thought of what a militaristic state that we can become. But to address your question more precisely, we still live in a country where homophobia still exists. Suppose this facial recognition technology 'outs' someone from a group when it was their personal choice to remain closeted. AND on the flip side of that, a straight person may be labeled wrongfully as well. I love technology. I wish that we could live in a Star Trek type of lifestyle BUT I also want us to think about the repercussions before we get to that point and regret it."

Some people had experienced instances where social media tools had an uncanny sense about them.

Bby Twitty: "Google account is linked with YouTube and all those things. One day I was searching for articles about people regretting and removing their tattoos. Then immediately when I when into YouTube, I was presented with ads for creams that hide and mask tattoos on every video that I visited."

whisk3rs: "Google is tracking you across internet sites. You need to disable third-party cookies in your browser."

timothyc: "Of course they are trying to obtain info. Why do you think Facebook and Google+ are free? They aren't interested in making money from customers. They are interested in obtaining your data so that advertisers can target users more efficiently."

GotThumbs2: "You need to get a clue. Information on each site you visit is not only tracked on your computer, but through your provider. Just because you use fake info on your Facebook doesn't mean your location is not known. How do you think many of those ads you see give your state or even city? The web is the information highway, but don't be naive in thinking your anonymous. Its not evil, it's just lack of knowledge on your part. You're walking with a GPS device right now. Your location can be tracked using your cell phone right this minute. Not [by] me, but the technology is currently available. If you're posting your photos on Facebook, then you're not really anonymous anyway."

Others saw some interesting possibilities for such a technology.

jmb72: "I wonder how good these facial feature programs are at Guy Fawkes masks. It won't be long before somebody like Google starts selling software to retailers that uses a camera at the store entrance to pop up all they know about you. "Hello John Doe, I understand you are looking for a new 55" HDTV, right this way" – based on what you Googled the night before. Then they demo it using the last movie you saw on NetFlix and that pay-per-view Playboy channel you watched yesterday."

wybmadiity: "How cool would that be. And imagine walking into a bar and before you even sit down your beverage of choice is already being poured into a nice cold glass for you."

timothyc: "And realizing you don't have any money to pay for it. What then? I may like something one day, but that doesn't mean I want it right away."

wybmadiity: "And why exactly would you have no money to pay for it. And set in your preferences, 'Not every day, thanks.' If you have a phobia of technology that's perfectly OK. Just don't put your info online there Tim."

cryofpaine: "Mass Effect 2 has advertising kiosks in it that work exactly like that. In a game, the idea is pretty cool. In real life, I imagine it would be pretty creepy."

Other commenters eschewed social media in favor of privacy and security, and they still found the technology frightening.

paqrat137: "I am a tech troglodyte so I need an answer. I don't Facebook, don't tweet so how does this affect me? Does it mean that other people can now just locate me? Have I involuntarily given up my privacy? Do I have to give permission for someone to use this technology when it comes to me? I don't like this, for some reason I can't quite verbalize."

Perhaps the police will be able to use it? Or maybe more sinister things could be in the works.

Mirus3: "Thank God. Now law enforcement may actually be able to find someone they are looking for."

USAShopper: "Someday these images will be used to exterminate people without symmetrical facial features."

But wait, even your phone can recognize faces.

HonestSoul: "Actually, I have an Android phone and when I take a picture, little boxes come up around peoples faces asking if they are in my contacts."

paqrat137: "Wow! I thought that feature was just for taking pictures. That is scary."

What do you think about these technologies? Share your thoughts in the comments area below or put yourself on camera to sound off at CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

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soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. banasy©

    Why thank, you, kind sir.
    I had a following.
    If I switched jobs, they would come with me.
    It was sooooo much fun...I couldn't do it today, though; not geTting home until 4 in the morning would *kill* me now!

    December 9, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bobcat (in a hat)

    Ain't it the truth. I know this going to midnight does me in anymore. Need to that for the younguns.

    December 9, 2011 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    @ banasy & bobcat (iah):
    I missed they party. I woke up, took a glass of water from the kitchen sink, and found it stopped up.
    I used Drano. It's fixed, but I'm wide awake.
    Maybe I'll read.

    December 10, 2011 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  4. F1

    @ n saidi not to be wierd or any thing but i do remember a movie with nicolas cage called face off so facial recog is good to a point, lol

    December 10, 2011 at 1:23 am | Report abuse |
  5. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    "I missed the party," not, "I missed they party."
    It was late, and I was tired. I went to school.

    December 10, 2011 at 6:06 am | Report abuse |
  6. Bugs Ears

    dystopian scenarios? This is a virtual world (Facebook) That statement is erroneous in it's thinking.

    December 10, 2011 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  7. James

    It's amazing! fifty years ago, people where very private in giving out information, now they can't wait to tell everything about their private lives-google, facebook, my space, etc,etc.

    December 12, 2011 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
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