WebRTC Expert Feature

October 29, 2013

Knowing You're 'Truly' a Dog on the Internet

The age summed up by that classic New Yorker cartoon caption, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog,” has come to an end.

Image via Washington Post

As usual, let me start with some apologies as this is going to get a little ugly, or at least refer to the ugly…that being those who may have chosen to post a personal avatar and/or pictures of “themselves” that represent more of their aspirations than their actual appearance, perhaps someone they feel is more intriguing, beguiling and evocative.

Truly.am is a website that uses facial recognition to verify that the picture of the person you are seeing is actually of the person you are seeing. It works well with regard to those people to whom you are connecting that are unknown to you, such as celebrities and potential romance partners. 

It is somewhat easy to be confronted with a fake picture on the dating side, so let’s start there. Let’s say you are chatting up someone you have been flirting with online and are ready to take it to the next step. Upon initiation via email request to the target party – which that party must accept for the service to work – Truly.am employs their webcam to take a video of their face and connect that face to the email address. Next, Truly.am uses facial recognition software to perform an analysis, using Truly.am servers in the cloud to perform a comparison of the video against the target party’s offered picture. Then once the analysis is complete, the sender receives corroboration as to whether the face truly associates to the original picture.

To be candid, I like the Truly.am service due to its use of WebRTC, however it does leave me with many uncomfortable questions, and even Truly.am developers Agustin Haller and Dayana Jabif recognize that a great many want to maintain anonymity on the Internet. Flirting, though, has been a VoIP windfall and there is no reason to think that it can’t have the same impact for WebRTC. With VoIP, perhaps the most appealing was the ability to obtain “pseudo” numbers that could be disposed of in the event that a relationship fell apart. When you verify someone via email, however, the big question is whether the target party will opt to use a “pseudo” email account. After all, the point of revealing yourself may not be to create a lasting relationship but to move to a more authentic discussion.

As for the celebrity market, the people who perform support tasks via Twitter may not be authentic. Many celebrities have suffered having their identity compromised by fans, exploiters and other problematic people, and Truly.am may be something this audience can use to maintain some semblance of identity control.

At day’s end, I think Truly.am can be an interesting addition for many applications, and based on the code I was able to view, I think it does a nice job of bringing HTML5 and WebRTC to any device. Of course, I hope to tell you more about the Truly.am service in the future, and until then you will have to trust that I am who I say I am. 

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Edited by Rachel Ramsey
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