Facezam - Creepiest App of All Time?

The Artifice
Happn is now one of the most popular dating apps on the market, mostly thanks to the premise - it pings whenever you walk past someone else who has it. Some may argue that it's a creepy premise, but in this day and age, it seems like we've all been culturally desensitised to the very concept of creepy. With Facebook becoming ever more invasive, that shouldn't come as much of a surprise, but even with that in mind, Facezam is crossing the line.

Apart from stealing the name of another app and reworking it with about as much imagination as Michael Bay's pet rock, it operates on a disturbing basis: the idea that people want to Facebook stalk complete strangers. Here's how it works - you take a photo of someone (presumably without them noticing), and then the app matches it up with photos on Facebook until the actual subject is found. If you're feeling the need to find a pillow to scream into now, that's fairly normal.

The founder of the app has claimed that it will end 'anonymous societies', as if anonymity was this awful thing that doesn't help anyone. I don't know about you but I don't mind not knowing who the vast majority of people in the world are, but do you know what I like even more? Not being photographed and having my Facebook profile dredged up by someone I was sitting opposite on the tube.

Supposedly the app has already been tested using 10,000 images and it achieved 70% accuracy, so if nothing else you can be certain that this isn't some kind of half-baked project. Or a social commentary. In any case, thanks to some policy tightening on Facebook's part, the app may not make the March 21st release date.

Any app which pulls user data can't be released without expressed permission from Facebook, and apparently Facezam doesn't have it yet. Given that it's only within a week of launch that this is coming up, something tells me that the Facezam team knew it was going to be a point of contention.

In fact, Facezam are claiming that their app doesn't violate Facebook's policies in any way, and moreover that the app could be useful as a countermeasure against crime. Because obviously if you're developing a crime fighting tool you're going to make it available to everyone and market it as an end to anonymity. Paging Mr. Orwell.

As if it wasn't obvious, the key issue here is that people aren't given the option to exclude themselves from this app. If you're on Facebook, it can probably find you, and you'll have no way of knowing if someone else has used it on you. At least until you get a friend request from someone with a clearly made-up name, a lazy eye, an penchant for trench-coats and an extensive collection of pictures of people's feet.

Comfortingly, other app developers have tried this kind of thing before and almost always failed to make it past the platform providing the actual database. In 2013, Google banned the use of facial recognition for Glass, largely as a response to the failed launch of NameTag, another face-scanning app, also blocked by Facebook. The real question is, how many developers will attempt this before one of them finds some sort of workaround? Put it this way, swapping out all my Facebook photos for pictures of various cacti is suddenly seeming a lot more attractive.

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