Monday, 25 October 2010

I spy, with my augmented eye

For some people, plain old reality just isn't enough. Like the pre-pneumatic chest of a million starlets, we demand augmentation and enhancement.

In an age of 'anything's possible' computer programming, we now have the technology to wrap the entire world in a shimmering layer of 3D gloss. Suddenly, we have the opportunity to see the world as our smartphones see it – liberally splattered with geotags, virtual signposts and downloadable content. Oh happy days.

Finding your nearest fast-food outlet or tube station is one thing, but now the technology (coupled with widespread GPS availability) is taking a somewhat sinister turn. BeenVerified, which proudly declares itself as "America's #1 Background Check", has developed a new app (available on iPhone and Android platforms) which enables you to 'find sex offenders in your neighbourhood'. Maybe sex offenders make better cappuccinos than Starbucks?

In an inappropriately jaunty tone, the company's website says "Sex offenders in the neighborhood? Find out instantly with our easy to use sex offender map on every report!" If someone wants to wander round a children's playground looking through their smartphone's viewfinder on the hunt for virtual nonces, it's probably a good idea that the app be 'easy to use' – anything too complicated would only confuse them.

According to a news article on, the $1.99 app "combines publicly available data from the sex offender registry with geolocation and augmented reality to make that data more useful and accessible to consumers."

The standard street-view displays your immediate vicinity, overlaid with pins and red dots, which then reveal "detailed information about [local] offenders, including their names, addresses, photos (if available) and the offenses they were convicted for." Presumably the inevitable update will also offer directions to the nearest Home Depot so that would-be vigilantes can stock up on flaming torches and pitchforks.

Reading stories like this can sometimes make for a rather bewildering experience – it all seems so plausible, and yet ridiculous at the same time. After all, no-one wants to be caught out believing a bulletin from The Onion. But BeenVerified has partnered with the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) and even pledged five percent of its proceeds to the charity.

But I wonder how much they'll offer to all the people who get mistakenly lynched by dim-witted justice-seekers the first time the app suffers from a glitch. Remember, we live in a world where Daily Star readers firebombed a paediatricians office because they couldn't spell. 

No comments:

Post a Comment