If you could scan your facial features into a smartphone application that would then allow other people to use their camera to identify you in real-time, would you? Blippar, the augmented reality (AR) and machine learning firm, is hoping the answer is yes.
In a move that has raised privacy concerns, the feature plans to showcase Blippar users' profile information including photos, music preferences and social media updates. It will also show current "mood" and boast a "celebrity look-a-like" option.
Blippar has already been loaded in roughly 70,000 public figure profiles across entertainment, culture, business, politics, media and sports. Using a phone's camera to "scan" a face will reportedly bring up open-source information gathered from the web.
The firm believes the feature, dubbed Face Profiles, will provide users with "personalised content to express their personality."
The scans will be stored in a database and the information presented when a person is snapped is taken from "publicly accessible sources" using a proprietary piece of machine learning technology called "Blipparsphere" – first launched in June earlier this year.
However, critics argue the application will be a massive invasion of personal privacy. In many ways, the concerns echo those that surrounded Google Glass back in 2013, which eventually banned developers from producing facial scanning options amid a public backlash.
"Putting real-time facial recognition technology into the hands of everyone is not just creepy — it is a step towards the complete erosion of anonymity in public space," Frederike Kaltheuner, policy officer at Privacy International, told The Evening Standard.
"Even if users can enter their own information, it is concerning that the company pools information from publicly accessible sources about celebrities," she added. "Anyone who has Googled their own name knows sources like Blipparsphere often [use] random or even inaccurate or outdated information."
Blippar has rejected the notion its Facial Profiles feature will be misused – arguing it is firmly "opt-in". Omar Tayeb, the firm's co-founder, told the BBC: "The user has full control over what's shown and they're able to deactivate it at any time."
Tayeb added the technology is sophisticated enough to realise if someone is trying to resister another user without consent and said anyone whose data is stored on Blippar's servers can request it to be removed with ease. "It's a social tool, something people can have fun with," he said.
While the feature was initially planned for launch today (Tuesday 6 December), the firm indicated it has been delayed for additional testing. "We are extremely excited about this new release and very much look forward to putting it into the hands of users very soon," a spokesperson told IBTimes UK.
Ambarish Mitra, Blippar's chief executive, in an official Blippar video, said use-cases could include dating. "Strangers meet all the time in interesting places and you don't have badges and you don't have business cards," he said. "You really can exchange a lot of instant information about someone and put it on your phone." He added: "This kind of engine will play and very big role to give you information about what drives your curiosity."