Big iPhone is watching you

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There's been a flurry of press interest in one of Apple's recent patent filings, one for facial recognition for the iPhone. To be sure, this is exactly the sort of whiz-bang thing tailored to excite the press; for my part, though, I find it unutterably creepy. You can argue that it will improve security -- one of the proposed uses is to make sure your phone recognizes authorized users -- but there is a certain lack of control involved. With a password, I enter text when I decide to do so; a facial recognition program like this puts the gadget in control.

Don't forget too that facial recognition algorithms have been built into the latest version of iPhoto, which means this is functionality that go across the entire Apple family. And what about the so-called augmented reality apps proposed for the iPhone, where the phone layers information over a video image in real time? Combine this with facial recognition and you have something that looks uncannily like the Terminator's heads-up display. (Well, OK, I guess you'll need a futuristic killer cyborg in the mix too.) Every once in a while technology comes along that makes me feel not excited but old; this is definitely one of those times.

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