Have you ever seen someone’s face and been struck with an overwhelming sense of familiarity but were unable to place them?
Well, that could soon change.
A new face-reading feature on an augmented reality app called Blippar has caused controversy and prompted fears about the inevitable demise of public privacy.
The app allows users to point their smartphone camera at any object and be given a slew of information about it. For example, you can get information about famous pieces of artwork, a type of dog breed, or point your phone at a product and receive advertisements for it.
But it’s the app’s newest feature that has raised eyebrows. The company has included a people recognising capability, allowing the app to recognise faces in real life or in images and videos.
“Seen a famous face in an image, on a TV show, or in person? Blipp to see what’s up in their world,” the website says about the upcoming addition to the platform.
The person’s face will be surrounded with little icons displaying pictures, social media accounts and other links to information about them online.
So far the app has included 70,000 public figures and celebrities which the app can recognise but it will also provide everyone with the chance to upload their own face to the platform’s database.
Augmented reality is tipped to be a huge new trend in tech and it could be all but impossible to stop us from living in a world where your face can reveal more than you might want it to.
For instance, concerns over public privacy led Google to ban facial recognition apps from its ill-fated Google Glass device.
But whether we like it or not, facial recognition technology that links to a database will become increasingly prevalent in society. In fact, last month Australian law enforcement authorities enacted their $18.5 million national facial recognition tool to match a person’s facial image against records held by government departments.
But the Blippar CEO Omar Tayeb has moved to allay any concerns saying that a privacy mechanism has been baked into the app.
“It’s a totally opt-in service, the user has full control over what’s shown and they’re able to deactivate it at any time,” he told the BBC.
You may be able to remove your face from the app, but you’d have to know it was on there in the first place.
There is also the possibility someone else could scan your face or take a photo of it to upload to the service, but Mr Tayeb says the company has tried to account for that as well. Users will need to take moving pictures of their face and Mr Tayeb claims the platform is sophisticated enough not to know if someone is trying to dupe it with someone else’s face.
In a world where privacy is increasingly abdicated, it remains to be seen if the new feature will be embraced by consumers.