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."
–pmichner

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. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    This is intimidating.
    I've already decided that I would plan everything I did very carefully if my cell phone were spying on me and attaching my actions to facial recognition...oh wait–it already could. Pictures are attached to my name...passport, etc...
    Right now, I'm doubting the wisdom of my posting here.
    TOO MUCH INFORMATION!

    December 9, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    I don't have to put my picture on FB.
    The government has my pictures.
    As soon as the government decides to share my face with ad agencies, my privacy will be gone.

    December 9, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. nsaidi

    A few questions to throw out there. One could argue that we will see more technologies like this in the future. Do you think that's likely? What could be done right now to protect people? What is the future of social tech?

    December 9, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. fernace

    Our privacy has been in question since the computer became a regular feature in our homes & cell phones are in every1s hands! Like everything else, this technology is a double edged sword depending on how it's used! For the most part I support technological breakthroughs, but 1 question sticks in my mind: Since just about everything we have or do depends on computers, what will happen if the system shuts down for 1 of a number of reasons? A virus, a bad storm, a terrorist attempt etc.! IMO, we already depend on technology too much! The other day I ran out of my apt. w/out my phone & couldn't call my friend to pick me up because I couldn't remember her #! It was in my phone but not my memory & this from a woman who can still remember my phone#s from childhood! Technology makes our lives simpler but also lazier & I suppose in a way more questionable as far as those taking advantage of the system! I think this particular app wont do any more harm than we've already experienced w/previous tech apps! Wait & see!!

    December 9, 2011 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bobcat (in a hat)

    @nsaidi
    The astonishing speed with which technology is advancing, it is feasible that technology will control everyday routines. You have a product come out one week, and the next week it's obsolete. Humankind has become so absorbed with gadgets, that I fear if these systems were to suddenly shut down, it would turn us in to a third world country, since no seems to be able to do for themselves any longer.
    Personally, I am from old school and still do things without the aid of these gadgets. I actually get called dinosaur because I still have a land line.

    December 9, 2011 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    My thinking goes so quickly to individual responsibility that I see my job as protecting myself as much as possible from being followed wherever I go, and even more importantly avoiding the convenience of having computers remember for me and do my math.
    We already see countless young people who don't understand their jobs beyond pushing computer keys. Many "computer-literate" kids cannot think well.

    December 9, 2011 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    @ nsaidi:
    "Do you think that's likely?" (More new technology like facial recognition.)
    I think it's unavoidable because that's where the money will be.

    December 9, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bobcat (in a hat)

    And one more rant about technology. While it has been a boon to society is some areas, it has also has been a curse. Years ago cars were built by men. Now the majority of the work is done by robots. Look at the thousands of jobs this has cost. Everything now is operated by computer, and that is destroying mans ability to think for himself.

    December 9, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
  9. banasy©

    "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.”
    I did that for years...it's called being a good bartender.

    December 9, 2011 at 9:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. bobcat (in a hat)

    @banasy
    We had one bartender in particular at a casino down here that was like that. He would see us come in and had our drinks ready when got to the bar. That was pretty cool.

    December 9, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  11. banasy©

    @bc(iah):
    That's facial recognition, the old-fashioned way!
    😉

    December 9, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. bobcat (in a hat)

    @banasy
    Exactly ! And it made a person feel good to get that kind of recognition. But that's getting to be another lost art.

    December 9, 2011 at 10:10 pm | Report abuse |
  13. banasy©

    @bc(iah)

    Personally, I think it's more prevalent in smaller-type bars rather than the big nightclub kind of places, although there are regulars there, also.
    When I bartended, I tried to make my customers feel as if they were having a beverage at my house, if you know what I mean. Until they had too much... Then I would beat them in the head with a baseball bat and roll them in the parking lot, especially if they forgot to "tip".
    I am kidding, of course!

    Or am I?

    December 9, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dan Ray Capell

    I think technology will always continue to evolve, and in many ways it is a double edge sword. Just like knives, it can be used as a usful tool or a weapon.

    December 9, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bobcat (in a hat)

    @banasy
    I can tell you were the type of bartender to keep people coming back. You sound like a really comfortable person to be around.

    December 9, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
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