back to article Watch how Google's AI catches shoulder surfers spying on your phone

Google researchers claim to have developed an "electronic screen protector" that can alert you when nosy parkers are looking over your shoulder at your phone. Essentially, it's machine-learning-powered software that can use the front-facing camera on a smartphone to pick out faces, identify anyone who isn't the owner, and if …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'The Googlers' work on this technique'

    To 'identify anyone who isn't the owner, and if they are gazing at the screen, alert the user that there's someone behind them SNOOPING on their texts or web browsing, and so on, all in real time.'

    . . . . I think we all know where the real snooping is. Even the application of this seems more reminiscent of "the best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,”

    . . . . Snore - Roll on hover cars and robots to clean the toilet - NOT....

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: 'The Googlers' work on this technique'

      Given how many are sloppy where they use apps on their phones this sounds like a good idea if it can be implemented. I not convinced Google can make it work reliably but they should commended for at least trying to protect users.

      1. trottel

        Re: 'The Googlers' work on this technique'

        You must be joking. For this to work they must have the camera active at all times. And of course they will just look for other faces... This is as creepy as it gets.

  2. Dr Scrum Master

    The Future's So Bright

    you've got to wear shades... to snoop over people's shoulders now.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Glasses didn't take off, so they can't yet spy on everyone everywhere at all times

    This seems like a new approach which could yield the same result.

    I'm guessing it'll upload images of the snoopers (and the owner + location data) in order to find out if some locations are more snoop-prone, if some facial types are more snoop-prone, and most certainly not to geo-locate everyone on Earth to figure out if they might have habits suitable for targetted adverts.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wonder how long your battery would last?

    Running the front camera and facial detection algorithms every moment your phone is awake would take a hefty chunk that's for sure!

    I also can't help thinking how damn annoying it would be when you wanted to show someone something on your phone, and instead it switched to a front camera view of them rainbow vomiting so you'd quickly end up disabling this "feature" unless you were a spy or had no friends.

    1. RockBurner

      Re: Wonder how long your battery would last?

      Never mind the battery - your mobile bandwidth would be eaten up in no time at all assuming the work isn't being done in it's entirety on the phone itself (in which case the battery would indeed be the first thing to collapse in a sullen heap).

      Yet another example of googlers living in their paradise world of constantly available high speed wifi and then wondering why their software gets criticised on launch in the real world.

    2. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Wonder how long your battery would last?

      "Running the front camera and facial detection algorithms every moment your phone is awake would take a hefty chunk that's for sure!"

      It's part of the security feature - no-one can snoop on your phone if the battery's dead.

    3. Chemical Bob

      Re: Wonder how long your battery would last?

      "so you'd quickly end up disabling this "feature" unless you were a spy or had no friends"

      The people who developed this Modern Miracle of Our Time haven't figured that out because they have no friends and wish they were spies.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But, uhm...

    So it uses the camera to check in real time what's going on behind you. Dare I ask what else Google is planning to do with all the new data this will gain them?

    Because although I agree that this might be useful for some people one also has to wonder at what prize Google will present this. Because if there's one thing we should know by now it's that nothing is free.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Isn't this a bit of bolting the door after the............

    Considering how their OS allows Apps to read our contacts, phone number IP address, cameras etc etc etc without out permission, they are worried about someone looking over our sholder. Get real Google!

  7. ratfox

    Yeah, sounds academic. In the first place, you don't want the battery drain. And then, this only works for people actually caught by the camera. On my phone, the angle under which the screen can be viewed is much wider than what the camera sees. Very interesting work and all that, but pretty much useless.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh the irony.

  9. Yavoy

    I believe it's all a proof of concept rather than anything they intend to implement.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That may be true for now, but corporations don't lavish their wealth on R&D without expectations of exploitable future technologies.

  10. msknight Silver badge

    Take down your posters

    The phone think that Sonic the hedgehog is watching my phone in the privacy of my bedroom.

  11. styx-tdo

    i am pretty sure they send the image feed to google for online analysis to improve the algorythm... ;)

    what can go wrong ;)?

    1. Chemical Bob
      Trollface

      Al Gore has no rhythm...

  12. Mathman

    Could be useful

    I should think it would work OK if the user has full control of when this feature is enabled. e.g. sending a personal message - turn on "no-peeking" feature. Then turn off to save battery.

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