Crossing the Creepy Line

Google CEO Eric Schmidt made the now infamous remark about Google’s practice of getting very close to the “creepy line” but not going over. With the decision to release an update to Google Goggles that will allow the app to identify human faces Google has arguably crossed “the creepy line.”

            What this would effectively permit is the identification of people on the street or in a public place by simply pointing your phone camera at them.

            Now that is creepy. 

            The need to be anonymous is as basic as human nature. We like to remain unknown in a crowd, or, at least we deserve the privilege to reveal ourselves to whomever we please.  If we commit a crime, perhaps, that right is abrogated.  We may be, even should be, identified and apprehended.  But to be identified by perfect strangers, gratuitously, randomly, is creepy. Joseph Conrad, in Lord Jim warns us, “There is something haunting in the light of the moon; it has all the dispassionateness of a disembodied soul, and something of its inconceivable mystery.” Zip!  With the focus of an I-Phone the mystery disappears.

            Many people “are rightfully scared of it,” one journalist said. “In particular, women say, ‘Oh my God. Imagine this guy takes a picture of me in a bar, and then he knows my address just because somewhere on the Web there is an association of my address with my photo.’ That’s a scary thought. So I think there is merit in finding a good route that makes the power of this technology available in a good way.”

            Interesting thought.  We dare not STOP using the creepy thing—we have to find a laudable reason to do so.  I am Eichmann appreciated that irony when he realized that the technology was there to murder 6 million Jews so we might as well do it.  Do you think so.

            I like Google’s response—a typical Post-Modern response–“I think we are taking a sort of cautious route with this,” Google said. “It’s a sensitive area, and it’s kind of a subjective call on how you would do it.”

            Another signature mark of the times: “Each person decides for himself if he uses a certain thing.”  No, not this time. I don’t want perverts to identify and to visit my grandchildren whenever they like!  I don’t care if the technology is there or not.  Get rid of it.

            Now that is a novel idea—get rid of it.  That is exactly what I am saying.  Get rid of the technology.  Not only do we want never to use it, we need to erase our footsteps and get rid of our ability to do the thing.  There is no good, no possible good, in a perfect stranger being able to identify another private human being.

            Can we deal with that? I doubt it.

            And it is coming folks. Apparently Google got over its concerns and has decided to roll facial recognition out in a mobile context. Science and technology have their own logic and momentum. Because something is possible there’s an impulse to see it realized or implemented in the world. Perhaps there’s such identification at Google with “innovation” that it was “culturally” impossible for Google not to roll this out.

            Creepy I tell you, creepy.

            There is one power, one power who does know me. Always has, always will.  Knows my next thought, predestined my next action.  Someone who is in absolute control of everything—Almighty God.  But He alone deserves this sort of power.  He loves me, He cares for me, He died on the cross at Calvary for me. 

            I do not fear His perusal, but my friend, if you swing your Motorola to my grandchildren and I think you are identifying them, not merely taking a picture, I am going to smack you.

            Not really.  But I am going to think you and Google are creepy.  Take that.

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