Stick Out Your Tongue and Create a Password


By Samuel Greengard

If there's one thing just about everyone can agree on it's that today's password situation is a living nightmare. The situation is so far beyond broken it's absurd—something I've blogged about previously.

For one thing, passwords are the digital equivalent of skeleton keys. For another, attempting to create and manage dozens of passwords for different sites and services requires superhuman capabilities.

Apparently, Google believes it has a solution. It has just filed a patent for technology that would use facial recognition: Users would stick out their tongue, frown, smile with their mouth open, crinkle their eyebrows or wrinkle their nose as a substitute for a password. Google contends that the use of these gestures would generate a "facial landmark" that, when compared to an existing photo or video, would provide a highly reliable way to authenticate a user.

Perhaps this technology is the answer—or, at least, a part of the solution. But I'm pretty sure I don't want to see people making an array of bizarre faces at airports, restaurants, schools, churches, workplaces and sporting events. It's bad enough coping with Bluetooth maniacs who loudly broadcast their phone conversations in full public view.

And let's not even guess at what it might look like if a Google Glass user found it necessary to use a facial password. Comedian Fred Armisen recently offered a preview of Glass behavior on a Saturday Night Live skit. It involved awkward head gestures, strange voice commands and more.

I'll admit I'm a bit old school. I really don't get the current fashion trend of wearing pajamas and slippers to the grocery store or sitting at a table in a restaurant with a group of friends while everyone is engaged in a parallel texting session. I can just imagine a few years from now when everyone talks out loud in public and people everywhere break into an array of bizarre faces to unlock their phones and tablets.

Please, let's solve the password problem by putting all ideas on the table. But in the process, let's not become a society that appears to be overflowing with people suffering from some peculiar illness.