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TMCnews Featured Article

March 31, 2011

Google's Facial Recognition: Boosting Its Anemic Social Networking Offerings?

By David Sims, TMCnet Contributing Editor

How to make sense of the facial-recognition app Google’s (News - Alert) working on? According to CNN, it could tie in to social networking pots Google has boiling after a few signal failures in that area –Orkut anyone? Buzz?

They’re still trying, though: “This month, Google redesigned its Profiles pages in a change that more closely resembles Facebook's (News - Alert) site. On Wednesday the company announced a new social-search tool, called +1, that allows people to share helpful search links with their friends.”

And now this. As CNN says, “Google plans to introduce a mobile application that would allow users to snap pictures of people's faces in order to access their personal information.”

No drive-bys, though: “In order to be identified by the software, people would have to check a box agreeing to give Google permission to access their pictures and profile information, said Hartmut Neven, the Google engineering director for image-recognition development.”

Right. And as we all know, such impenetrable firewalls have never been breached. It would certainly be beyond the capabilities of any 19-year old to snap a picture of a pretty girl in a bar, hack into a database, find out her info and stalk her.

But the technology’s there, folks. As MediaPost News said Forbes.com debuted a facial recognition app earlier this month, so “those with web cams will be invited to view Volkswagen, Doritos and Google ads and data will be gathered regarding their facial reactions to the ads,” and build a better ad.

“A look of confusion might, for example, trigger more information about a product, while a look of great joy may send a viewers directly to a purchase page,” MediaPost reports.

Interesting -- did you say “Google” was one of the test marketers?

There’s no release date or timeline – publicly acknowledged, anyway – but as NevenVision (the company acquired by Google to develop this feature) lets drop, the system could associate pictures publicly available on Facebook, Flickr and other photo-sharing sites with a person's name: "That we could do today. Technically, we can pretty much do all of these things."

It’s just their fretting about privacy issues that’s holding them back, to hear Neven tell it. Street View must still be fresh in their minds.

David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Janice McDuffee

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