'Ugly Meter' iPhone App Raises Cyberbullying Concerns
The app, which is available for $0.99 on the iTunes Store, uses facial recognition technology to analyze a person's anatomical symmetry. Once a user submits a photo of someone's face, the app will automatically rate his or her ugliness on a scale of 1 to 10 (a ranking of 1, in this case, means you're "not ugly"). Once the app determines a ranking, it'll also generate a one-liner about your appearance. People who score a 10, for example, will receive a message that reads, "You're so ugly, when you walk by the bathroom, the toilet flushes."
The app's creators insist that the 'Ugly Meter' is intended only to entertain, but some are worried that cyberbullies could use it as a weapon to terrorize their prey. "There's a fine line between teasing and razzing one another," Dr. Gwenn O'Keeffe, author of the book 'Cybersafe: Protecting and Empowering Kids in the Digital World of Texting, Gaming and Social Media,' told FOX News. "And this is just hurtful. It could have crushing blows on kids with low self-esteem. There's just nothing good that could come from an app like this. There are other ways to have fun in life."
O'Keeffe recommends that Apple either remove the app from the iTunes Store altogether, or at least make it unavailable to minors. Thus far, Apple hasn't commented on the app, but app programmer Eugene Overline seems confident that the 'Ugly Meter' will remain on the market. "All of our insults are PG-rated," Overline argues. "We kept it pretty clean on purpose."
We understand how the 'Ugly Meter' could be used in aggressive or mean-spirited ways. The app's crass humor certainly seems geared toward adolescent sensibilities, and image-conscious teenagers could easily take its results too seriously. But we're not sure that it necessarily warrants an outright ban from the iTunes Store. If the app was explicitly promoted as a tool to help terrorize your friends, that would be a different story. As it is, though, the 'Ugly Meter' seems like it was designed for harmless fun, and we think it'd be difficult to punish its creators for the actions of immature users.