NameTag for Google Glass

The NameTag app for Google Glass isn't anywhere near ready for prime time, but it still manages to get attention.

Some good news this morning for U.S. Sen. Al Franken, and others who worry that anyone with Google Glass is using the $1,500 wearable to stalk them. The esteemed gentleman from Minnesota last week released a letter he sent to, which makes the NameTag app for Google Glass.

Franken doesn't hide his concern for the app when it comes to privacy.

I am writing to express my deep concern about your company's recently announced NameTag app for Google Glass. According to promotional materials, NameTag lets strangers get a broad range of personal information-including a person's name, photos, and dating website profiles-simply by looking at that person's face with the Glass camera. This is apparently done without that person's knowledge or consent, which crosses a bright line for privacy and personal safety.

Fair enough. But Franken's fear is based off "promotional materials." 

We've spent a few minutes actually using the NameTag app. And even in that short time, it's obvious that Franken has nothing yet to fear.

The idea of NameTag is simple: You scan a face, and it identifies the face — doing so using available images from "social media and dating sites, including more than 450,000 registered sex offenders."

The app isn't officially sanctioned Glassware. That means you'll have to install it yourself in the command line — which Franken, in his letter, mistakenly refers to as a "jailbroken" Google Glass. There's nothing hacked or "jailbroken" about this — just turn on USB debugging, which lets you install over the command line. (NameTag has whipped up Mac and Windows scripts for those who need help doing that.)

Once installed, you launch NameTag through the menu like you would any other app. Line up a face in the reticle, and it searches the database. 

The app is very much in beta. The software itself is not fast, and the server-side recognition is sluggish, too. (A fact that nametag makes very clear before you even install.) That in and of itself takes care of any fears Franken should have about using NameTag and Google Glass to discretely look up someone's info from their face. You have to get fairly close and hold too still to do it without anyone noticing.

Bryan CranstonBryan Cranston

And the next problem? The recognition is currently extremely limited. Nametag suggests using their demo pictures, which offer up Kanye West, Taylor Swift, a registered sex offender from New Jersey (who looks a lot like a puffy Jeremy Renner), and Bryan Cranston in full-on Heisenberg mode. When the servers worked, Name Tag was able to recognize those faces. 

George ClooneyGeorge Clooney

With images that I chose, it failed miserably. Bill Gates is not a sex offender. Neither is George Clooney or Jennifer Aniston. So it has quite a way to go still before actually being useful.

Nametag for Google Glass

And as a practical matter, NameTag only lasts a couple minutes before overheating Google Glass. So there's also that.

Sen. Franken closed his letter with a few questions for NameTag:

  1. Will NameTag be an opt-in program? 
  2. How are you addressing concerns that NameTag could be used by stalkers or other bad actors to jeopardize personal safety? 
  3. How does NameTag protect people who do not have an account from being identified? What are you doing to prevent hackers from circumventing these protections? 
  4. Which facial recognition database does NameTag use to identify faceprints? Is it owned by your company? If not, who owns the database?
  5. Does NameTag use any Facebook photos, including public profile photos, to help identify individuals? What other websites are used?
  6. Will you agree to adhere to the best practices established by the NTIA's Multistakeholder Process? 
  7. How do you plan to address Google's prohibition on facial recognition Glassware?
  8. Do you intend to develop NameTag for other mobile devices, such as smartphones? 

A good number of the questions here come down to whether publicly available data should be able to be easily accessed by end users. If I'm posting pictures in public, for everyone to see, I don't get to complain if someone sees them or accesses them — whether it's NameTag or someone else.

Sen. Franken has legitimate concerns about privacy when it comes to facial recognition programs. But his fears about Google Glass and NameTag are extremely premature.


Reader comments

Sen. Franken's fear of Google Glass facial recognition app is premature


NO they are not premature. I would rather them get out ahead of this than wait until after the fact.

When it was in the editors column yesterday, I was going to agree with you, but after reading this legislation cannot come soon enough.

I just noticed you cannot edit your comments anymore. Bad Android Central, Bad

Anyway, I guess along with GG you are going to have to have built in counter measures for this kind of thing...

I can edit comments, using the app.

Posted from my "Gift from God" Note 3, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.

Yeah, the app had other issues. (Which should have just been taken care of.) Confimed something else has broken, though. Thanks for the heads up.

You're welcome, Phil. You guys keep up the great work!

Posted from my "Gift from God" Note 3, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.

The paid editors don't even edit very well in the actual articles. Why would expect the comments section to provide that facility?

"Why would expect the comments..." That does not sound quite right. I guess ScottJ needs a new editor as well.

"Google" and "user privacy" doesn't work in same sentence. That's a fact. We have seen enough fines handed over by google worldwide regarding violation of privacy laws/issues.

The best example I can personally think about is the "App Opps" in Android 4.3. This was the best feature I liked in 4.3. But now they removed that feature in 4.4. Someone please explain how can they remove such an important in 4.4? It's clear that they don't respect user privacy.

Yet No One is Up In Arms over FaceBook Creating their own Facial Recognition system as we speak to Identify and Tag every photo on FaceBook and their users.

Really, it comes down to exactly what Phil said: if you post something that's public on the internet and accessible to everyone, and NameTag accesses it, that's not a violation of privacy. Simple. Now, if the app were accessing non-public information, that would be a completely different story but that doesn't seem to be the case. This sort of thing is going to become more and more possible as mobile cameras and processors get better, and it won't take Google Glass to make it happen. You could, in theory, do the *exact* same thing right now with just your cell phone.

How can you pass legislation that says "you cannot take a picture where someone you don't know appears in the photo"? I mean, if I snap a photo of a friend at the bar, there's going to potentially be lots of people in the background that I don't know. Same thing if you're documenting a vacation with your family. I know I keep saying this over and over and over and over but, if you're in public, you have no privacy. You are recorded something like 80% of the time you are out in public, between traffic cams, security cams, etc.

The way you "opt-out" of this sort of thing is not to place your picture online, viewable to the public, with any identifiable information next to it. Certainly, an app like this makes it easier, but I could do the same thing just by doing image searches and looking for a face of someone I captured in the background of a photo. And, if you give someone your full name, it's shocking the amount of information you can get just from a Google search. But that goes back to not putting private information where it's visible to the public.

No, I think talking about it in the larger sense is good, and important. I think singling out a bad beta app on what's mostly a beta device not a lot of people have is a waste of U.S. senator's time.

Say you see me on the street and take my picture with a DSLR, then pump it through Google Images (or anything else that taps into publicly available images/info) to see what comes up. How is that any different? Is it wrong just because Google Glass makes it quicker and easier to do? Or is it wrong because it's wrong? And to his credit, Franken goes beyond Glass in his questioning. 

tl;dr: Google Glass isn't the issue here.

Belittling or marginalizing Franken's questions because NameTag doesn't work well today is pretty lame.

However, the question about why it is or should have legislation is an excellent one. Why ARE the Frankens getting riled up about facial recognition apps on Glass? As you say, is there anything illegal about taking someone's picture without their knowledge (assuming their likeness is not then used for commercial purposes)? If not, then what's the beef? As you say, does the difference in speed that Glass could deliver, versus other already-available processes, make it a singular candidate for legislative restriction? Seems pretty bogus to me. And if one wants to claim it needs to be restricted, then what about restricting other facial recognition that is already in commercial use, like the systems at malls or sporting events or on traffic lights? Why does Glass deserve special restriction?

I like Franken. I like that he's discussing this stuff in public (even if I disagree with some of his conclusions).

And I'd like them to actually use the stuff they're questioning.

Agreed. So far, most (if not all) of the people questioning the use of Glass in public have never used it or even laid eyes or hands on a physical pair of Glass.

Posted from my "Gift from God" Note 3, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.

FaceBook, Right Now, is creating facial recognition system that will tag and identify every picture and the people in them. No one says a peep. I'd be more worried about that if I ever used FB, which I never did or have had a single picture uploaded to it by myself or anyone.


As a resident of Minnesota, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are *much* more important things for Stuart Smalley to be spending his time on right now.


Pumping your image through facial recognition (of any sort) is just wrong, no matter how many of your friends put your picture on line with an associated name.

I guess if Phil can't see this, there is no way we will ever convince him. Until that creep from the beach starts watching his daughters at their street, and parking outside his house. Hey Phil: Ask your wife if she is OK with this!

People have a right to peaceful anonymity while going about their business in a public place. No one can demand your papers or insist on getting your name. We don't even allow authorities to do this, why should we allow any passerby?

The time to regulate this is NOW, not after there are wealthy vested interests bringing things to market.

But *how* do you regulate against this? Prohibit people from having a camera of any kind in a public space? What about security cameras, traffic cams, etc? This is one of those things that people are going to have to "get over". The whole privacy argument is a farce. If you are "in view of the public", then you are not "in private".

Now, once you get to stalking and the like, there are already laws against that. But you can't, realistically, expect the US government to outlaw having a camera in public. That's just ridiculous.

And, your username doesn’t imply that you're sucking on BlackBerry's third leg?

I'm still trying to figure out how you came to your conclusion, simply from Android Central reporting on this. If Phil and the Gang truly were Glass fanboys, then they wouldn't even bother posting articles that question the integrity of using Glass in public.

Note the title of the post. It says that Senator Franken's fear of Google Glass facial recognition is PREMATURE, not INVALID.

If you're going to troll, try harder.

Posted from my "Gift from God" Note 3, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.

I'm glad, you know exactly what people will be buying.

Posted from my "Gift from God" Note 3, my "God-Given" iPad Mini 2, or my "Risen" Samsung Chromebook.

At a reasonable price they make a hell of a lot more sense than a smart watch. Yeah $300 and I am in on "Galaxy Glass" or Nexus Glass or whatever

Google is yet to have a hardware "hit" even though they price it low. They just don't know how to market devices properly, or simply don't know how to manage inventory.

Nexus 7 will few million of sales wasn't a flop, but not a hit either.

You mean, besides the Chromecast? And Chromebooks? And Nexus phones? Granted, their Nexus line doesn't sell as well as some other smart phone lines, but Google doesn't really advertise the Nexus phones and they still sell quite a few. They are aimed at a fairly "niche" market, so wouldn't expect to see millions of them walking around. But that doesn't mean that they aren't successful, either. If you make a device, and expect to sell 200,000 of them, and end up selling 215,000, then your device was a success based on your own marketing and profit predictions.

Glass will probably go over pretty similarly to their Nexus phones, at least at first: a fairly niche market of tech geeks. But, as "wearables" gain more mainstream "social acceptance", I would expect them to sell much more.

It’s like Phil states, it comes down to “whether publicly available data should be able to be easily accessed by an end users” It’s publicly available anyway… what does it matter if I can look at you and access that information, as opposed to searching for it “the hard way” The information is already out there.

Alot of the stuff that is publicly available about you is not posted by you yourself. I was reading a story about women whose first Google search result for their name is revenge porn. If there is any content about you on the internet (maybe a link through work - "our team"; any sort of article about you), creeps can surreptitiously take a picture of you in a public place and find out your name and often where you work and what you do. While elements of this are possible with existing technology, the difficulty in accomplishing this well is a reasonable barrier - any app that makes this much simpler to do imperceptibly is a big deal, and Franken is right to be asking the questions he is asking.

He is right to be asking questions, the fact is though, he is confusing legality with morality. Not all morals are laws.

And I would argue we need better laws about limiting what is publicly available about yourself. The fact that the women who are victims of revenge porn cannot force the provider to take down the content or Google to remove the link is morally reprehensible and should be illegal.

While I would agree that revenge porn can be pretty damaging both in terms of the person's reputation and their psyche, I would also point out that at some point they made the bad choice of letting someone take that video. I think the moral of that story should be not to let someone talk you into taking photos of yourself that you would be embarrassed about if they ended up on the net. I know that sounds a little harsh, and it is, but it's also the truth.

I'd rather they address the legal side of this before it becomes a problem. If after the fact a lot of instances of abuse will happen and nothing will be done to do individuals because there is no law. Finally, apps like this are a great reason to avoide social media, including Google+ and Facebook. I don't worry about apps like this for myself because I am basically an unknown and have nothing as far as social media other than accounts like this at Android Central. I worry about family members who do not realize what they might be posting...

It looks like Phil was so busy being the #uneditor that he didn't proofread his own article.


...(NameTag was whipped up Mac and Windows scripts for those who need help doing that.)...

...available data should be able to be easily accessed by an end users...

In addition, there are many grievous stylistic offenses.

These kinds of mistakes would be forgivable if it weren't so endemic on this site and the editors weren't so quick to judge others for making the same errors.

Thanks for pointing them out! I'll get them fixed right away. Been a little busy squashing bugs after a major CMS update.

Wanna come work for us? E-mail me. Phil at androidcentral dot com.

Or how can Franken say to the citizens, 'Google, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,' when he himself doesn't see the logs in the NSA's eyes?

Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck in another's eye.

Nice mote/beam reference. The fun thing about Franken and seemingly federal politicians in general is that they get to pretend like they don't know about any of the problems espoused by the alphabet soup gangs and claim national security exceptions (we didn't break a law, but we can't tell you why because of national security) if you bring it up. But if someone in the private sector does the same thing, oh man, is he totally violating our rights. LOL

i don't mind if they take a picture of me in the street through Glass or a camera. what i *do* mind is if that picture goes on to tell my life's history and information to any random stranger putting it through google or this nametag.

frankly i think its the social websites that should be concerned with this kind of technology because when people become aware they'll take steps to prevent it.

i've already put loads of restrictions in place in my facebook account and my g+ account (which i don't even use but google forces me to) and deleted my account from others which i can live without and insist on indexing my page with google and showing off my information to the web (i'm looking at you linkedin).

And this only limits visibility of what you have posted about yourself, not what other people can post about you (with your picture included)

Posted via Android Central App

What you post publicly on Facebook, Google+ and other such sites is what would be revealed to the world. If you want to want privacy, don't upload profile pics to your accounts or post any personal information publicly.

Posted via Android Central App

I agree with you on this, Phil. I don't have a Facebook account and don't plan to get one ever. I have exactly one image of me on the internet on my Google+ profile, but I never use that image for anything but work (they asked me to add a picture). I fully expect that any of a number of cameras and facial recognition apps on individuals, in businesses, in airports, or anywhere else in public could use my profile photo to possibly identify me. Why should I worry about that? I put it in public, so the public can use it. Now, if it is digging into DMV records looking at my driver's license photo, there had better be a national security reason for it or something. But if I had a dating profile or Facebook account and spammed the world with my photos, I would not expect to be anonymous in public. Why would anyone expect that?

Whether his comments are premature or not, they benefit both the public and the developer.

The general public needs to be better informed of new technology, the more information they have, the better chance there is to either squash their fears or create laws to protect them (more of a general comment rather than directed at this specific app).

For the developer, at least it starts to build the borders that it may eventually not be able to cross. I'd rather save time and money up front creating something rather than spend more time and money having to rework it because of new laws and restrictions or to have it taken away completely.

The one argument I don't agree with is "Don't knock Glass until you try it". At this time, Glass is not a financially feasible or available option for most people to try. Until it is, I believe some of their fears are warranted.

I will agree with you that the public needs to be better informed.

As for "Don't knock Glass until you try it" it's true that most people aren't capable of getting their hands on a pair of Glass. I was lucky and made friends with someone who had a pair and he let me play with them for a half hour, but I realize that's not everyone. But I would still say that you shouldn't declare Glass "DOA" or "evil" before you've even tried them or seen what they are capable of.

Fear of Glass at this point is tantamount to cavemen cowering in the corner at their first sight of fire.

I haven't agreed with Mr. Franklin on anything since he left SNL, and that's...ok. But he is actually serving a legitimate purpose here, this needs to be examined before someone is injured by it, not after. I agree with those that say if you put the info out there then you can't argue it being accessed. But the issue of unauthorized information is the point here. What needs to occur is that recognition software be written that allows you to search what information is available about you, and mandates enacted that give you the ability to authorize or delete the information as you see fit. Especially where children are concerned.

There is no "unauthorized" information accessed by this app. It can only access data that is already publicly available and you do have control over that, for the most part.

As for legislating what information can be searched about you, I can Google your name and learn plenty, even without a special image recognition software.

Thanks for reinforcing my argument "for the most part". Any information published about me by a third party without my consent is by definition unauthorized. The legislation I ask for is to give a person the ability to identify that information and have it removed easily without going through any lengthy processes or legal hassle. Especially sites that do so for commercial purposes, or, and I stress this again, where minors are concerned. The fact that your comments are posted under "TenshiNo" and not your real name shows that you value your identity at least in some small way.

So let me get this straight is totally okay for the government and businesses to do this but not your average citizen.

We have zero expectation of privacy when we are in the public. So we shouldn't be mad if someone uses our picture taken in public to obtain more information about us that is also publicly available. Sure technology allows us to make these searches quicker. But that is it. There are plenty of facial rec programs out there that do this sort of thing. Casinos have dumped loads of money into this kind of reasearch. So have governments (English for one). The cat is out of the bag, it's been out for at least 10 years. It's just becoming less expensive for the average Joe to do.

There only hope is to allow people the right to have their info scrubbed from a public database upon request. And that is only good for a database in the US. The replicative nature of the Internet could have that very same info on a server in Bangkok. Good luck.

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Franken is a far-left nut job who stumbled his was into the Senate. That, in and of itself, is far more scary than anything anyone may ever do with Google's piece of wonder glass!

Sent via Cyberspace

Al, you're a publicity whore. This tech concept is happening and you're not going to be able to stop it. If you don't want me to have access to your info, then stop blasting your info all over the internet. None of the concept apps like this have ever claimed to give access to private info, just all of the crap that people are stupid enough to put on the web in unsecured form. Your data promiscuity is your responsibility, not mine.

Here, Sen. Al Franken, I fixed your statement.

"According to promotional materials, THE NSA lets THE GOVERNMENT get a broad range of personal information-including a person's name, photos, LOCATION, and dating website profiles-simply by looking at that person's DATA USAGE. This is apparently done without that person's knowledge or consent, which crosses a bright line for privacy and personal safety."