Tech turns the creepy dial to 11

This week in tech saw a distinctly creepy set of news stories. From messaging apps that talk on your behalf through to the Internet of Stings, it’s all in our tech roundup this week.


Google was busy this week at Google I/O, its annual developer conference. It launched Google Home, a hardware-based home assistant that listens to you, reminiscent of Amazon’s Echo, in case you didn’t have enough technology eavesdropping in your house.

Apparently this one is a lot smarter than the others. Allo can be configured to understand what’s in a photo that someone sends you and generate appropriate responses on your behalf (‘aww!’ ‘cute baby!’) to save you the trouble, doing away with the need for all of those pesky social interactions altogether.

Facial recognition, without your permission

Google isn’t the only computer program getting a little creepy over pictures. In Russia, programmers have developed an app that will find your face in a crowd and identify who you are.

The FindFace app scans a photograph and analyzes all of the faces, matching them against profile pictures on Russian social network Vkontakte, which has 200 million users. Launched two months ago, the software has already processed three million searches.

It’s a timely story, given Facebook’s launch of its Moments photo-sharing app in Canada earlier this month. As in Europe, the social giant had to remove facial recognition technology embedded in the app’s U.S. version because of tougher privacy laws here.

If you’re on your way to Russia and worried about being tagged, you could always use the anti-facial recognition make-up tips over at CV Dazzle, a website created by artist Adam Harvey. Although you risk looking like someone from an early eighties album cover if you do.

Wearable tells spendthrifts to buzz off

How are your finances? Are you tempted by that extra gadget or pair of shoes? U.K. firm Intelligent Environments has created a system linking your bank account to a wristband that gives you electric shocks. The idea is to give you a 255-volt shock if the funds in your account slip below a certain level. In short, the firm has created the Internet of Stings. We really thought this might be an April Fool’s story, but it isn’t.

The platform can also be used to link your bank account to your thermostat, turning down the heat as your funds dwindle. Welcome to the world of Poverty as a Service.

No banks have yet taken the firm up on its idea, apparently. No wonder. Probably best to keep those monthly banking and overdraft fees under the radar for as long as possible rather than bringing them painfully to the customer’s attention, eh?

Best of expertIP

Governments across the world are becoming more tech-savvy, but Canada is behind the curve, according to a blog post by Christine Wong. Not a single Canadian government organization polled by Deloitte as part of a global survey reported being ahead of the private sector in its digital capabilities. Almost one-third of the rest of the world did.

And while nearly two-thirds of Canadian public agencies say that citizen demand is the biggest driver for digital transformation, only four per cent of them enlist their users to help develop and deliver their digital services. Again, Canada came in last here.

Why isn’t our government doing better? Poor funding, apparently, and competing priorities, according to Deloitte. This survey was conducted when the last government was in power, though, so perhaps this one will be different.

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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