App, app, on the phone...
With two recent movies spawned by the Snow White fairy tale (for those living in a cave: Mirror, Mirror with Julia Roberts and Snow White and the Huntsman with Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron, not to mention hunk-o-the-month Chris Hemsworth), we do indeed seem to be living in a "who's the fairest of them all" era. For those of us who lack magic talking mirrors, there's an app that's ready to help us answer that timeless question. Or at least figure out how ugly we are.
Ugly Meter app
The Ugly Meter is advertised thusly on iTunes: "Do you ever wonder if you're ugly and your friends just don't tell you? Do you have an ugly friend, and you just don't know how to tell them?
The Ugly Meter takes your photo and scans the details of your face to give you a rating of 1-10 on the Ugly Scale. If you rate a 10, you probably have a face that only a mother could love. Depending on how bad your rating is, the Ugly Meter will comment on your looks!"
Brad Pitt through the Ugly Meter Pro
You snap a picture of you (or your victim). The app scans the photo and evaluates it based on things such as facial symmetry, proportions and shape. It then spits out a score from 10 to 0. Unlike the Dudley Moore/Bo Derek movie romp, in this case, a 10 signifies the ugliest and a zero means you're hot. Then, depending on your score, it will insult you with a clever put-down, such as "any similarity between you and a human is purely coincidental." All this for 99 cents! Or $4.99 for the PRO upgrade, where the scale goes to 100. (Why not 11?!?!?)
Of course, the Ugly Meter is a complete joke. A user can submit the same photo half a dozen times and receive different results every time. And the app creators, the Dapper Gentlemen, go so far as to poke fun at all the press they have received about this app, including featured stories on CBS and MSNBC, the Today Show, the Tonight Show, the Huffington Post, the Daily Mail and Howard Stern, many of whom don't seem to get the joke.
But maybe the problem is that our whole social milieu has become an Ugly Meter. Back in 1999, there was the attractiveness rating website called Rate My Face, which then was superseded by Hot or Not, which was apparently an inspiration for Mark Zuckerberg's first foray into social media creation, Facemash, which used hacked images of his Harvard classmates' ID photos to create a "who's the fairest of them all" smackdown. The next-gen spawn, Facebook, allows us do that in a "kinder, gentler" fashion as we scroll through all those photos of fabulous vacations and remodeled kitchens and pretty babies and that "friend" who always posts a shot of herself posing with her leg jutting forward in classic model style, as if looking for affirmation that she's still hot after all these years.
It's all about the ranking and the rating... from reality television shows that are competitions in which the audience votes to eliminate the "less fair" (singer, dancer, etc., etc.) to best seller lists and box office returns and the ceaseless political polls.
When did we forget how to judge for ourselves?
Hey, just look in the mirror...
Big Brother (in the form of Facebook) is truly watching you now. Did you know:
Facebook collects more data than you might realize. You probably didn't know that it receives a report every time you visit a site with a Facebook "like" button, even if you do not click the button, even if you are not logged in, EVEN if you are NOT a Facebook user. It's collecting all sorts of info, including your IP address, which, in the words of Lori Andrews, a law professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, can act like "DNA at a crime scene. There often will be enough data points connected with your IP address to clearly identify you."
Okay, so he was a bit of a pessimist.
Your personal data is shared more widely than you may imagine. Even if you have restrictions on your information to include "friends only," a friend who is using a Facebook app could allow your information to be sent to a third party...without your knowledge.
Yeah, and he's not very attractive, either.
Some people are just compulsive over-sharers. Millions of users post status updates on Facebook that say where they plan to spend a day or night --- potentially tipping off burglars that homes are ripe for the pickings. Millions of other users "liked" a page about health conditions or treatments (which details an insurer might use to deny coverage).
"Move fast and break things." Zuckerberg explains Facebook's core values
Current laws about online privacy are pretty weak in the US. You don't have a lot of rights in federal court in this matter.
They know what you look like. The "Tag Suggest" feature, which was enabled for some users, without notification, scans the photographs that you upload using facial recognition technology. It will then try to tie the face to a specific user. Oh, great, you say, that'll save me some time. Oh yeah, do you really want to be part of a gigantic biometric database?
So besides the geeks at Facebook, who's watching? Insurance companies, employers, and college admissions officers, that's who. Government investigators such as IRS agents can scan public postings to research tax cases (although they are currently prohibited from trying to "friend" a taxpayer in order to gain access to potentially incriminating data. However, investigators for the Department of Immigration and Naturalization Services are encouraged to try all means, including cyber-friending, to try to observe the day-to-day activities of suspected illegal aliens.
So what can you do if you actually value that quaint old concept known as "privacy?" Stay tuned tomorrow for tips on protecting your personal information.
(Information courtesy of Consumer Reports, June 2012 issue)
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