Anonymity forms a protective casing. When it’s punctured, on the street or at a party, the moment of recognition falls somewhere on a spectrum of delight and horror. Soon enough, though, technology will see to it that we can no longer expect to disappear into a landscape of passing faces.
NameTag, an app built for Google Glass by a company called FacialNetwork.com, 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.
According to the app’s creator, Kevin Alan Tussy, to build the database, the company is “targeting those with the largest online profiles first, like celebrities, business people, and public figures. But we eventually plan on having everyone with a public social-media profile included in NameTag.” At the moment, the app’s expanding network includes about two million entries, and three hundred testers have already started using it. When the app is officially released to a general audience, sometime before the end of March, you will have to opt out of the database if you don’t want to be listed….”