Want to know if the cute blonde sitting next to you on the subway is single?
If you're a Google Glass owner, or if you're superstealthy with a smartphone, there might soon be no need to actually ask her. Instead, you could just discreetly snap her picture and let an app called NameTag do the rest.
The app, which is in beta testing for Google Glass and will soon be available for Android and iOS, uses facial-recognition technology to locate a person's online information — including social media profiles, pictures and even criminal records — with nothing more than a photograph.
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A NameTag user would take a photo of the person in question with a smartphone or Google Glass and upload the photo wirelessly to the app's server. Once the app has cross-referenced the photo with millions of publicly available online records, it displays the person's name, more photos and links to the subject's social media pages, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Perhaps more important, NameTag says it will cross-reference photos against the U.S. National Sex Offender Registry as well as other databases of known criminals, to alert users about whom they might be associating with.
FacialNetwork.com, the creator of NameTag, is also working with online dating sites, such as OkCupid, Plenty of Fish and Match.com, to allow users to compare profile pictures from these sites with criminal registries.
"I believe that this will make online dating and offline social interactions much safer and give us a far better understanding of the people around us," said NameTag's creator, Kevin Alan Tussy, said in a statement.
Tussy and his team seem to have the best intentions of online daters at heart, but others might not be pleased that strangers can now access private online information about them without first asking for their names.
Luckily for privacy seekers, the app's creator told CNET that individuals will soon be able to login to NameTag's website and choose whether or not to make their information available to users of the app.
NameTag is currently only available for Google Glass beta testers, but, according to NameTag's creators, the app will be available in early 2014 in the GooglePlay and iTunes app stores. However, because of Google's policy against facial-recognition apps for Glass, the app's creators are not yet sure if NameTag will make it onto the official Glass store.
"Making real-time facial recognition work on Glass hasn't been easy, but we did it," Tussy said in his statement. "Now, the question isn't if we will support Glass; it's will Google support us?"
With Google Glass privacy concerns already mounting, it will be interesting to see if the technology giant will make a place for facial-recognition apps for Glass in the future. However, NameTag's creator doesn't seem too concerned about Google's stance on this latent technology.
As Tussy explained, there will soon be other providers of augmented reality headsets, which means that apps that use facial recognition might still find a place in the world of wearable tech.
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Elizabeth is a Live Science associate editor who writes about science and technology. She graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from George Washington University and has also written for Space.com, Everyday Health, Yahoo and Tom's Guide, among others. Elizabeth has traveled throughout the Americas, studying political systems and indigenous cultures and teaching English to students of all ages.