Thursday, September 24, 2009

Anonymous No More: Google and Facial Recognition

Last night my wife downloaded the new version of Google Picasa. It has a really cool new feature called facial recognition. Simply idenitfy a person's face in a few photos and Picasa can search your computer and identify all the other photo's of that person. It even matched up baby photos to the right kids. I believe Flickr has had a similar feature for a few months now but whoever invented it this is a hugely impressive technology.

Of course it is a very convenient way of organising your photo's but it is much much more than that. How long before Google incorporates face search into its flagship internet search engine. How long before every picture of you that was ever taken and put in print or posted to some obscure website becomes identifiable and traceable to you? What about the time you appeared as an anonymous face at the back of a group of protesters when you were a idealistic young student? What about the time you were topless on a beach and appeared  in the background of another holidaymakers snapshot? Previously only celebrities had to worry about the privacy of their images because the effort involved in tying an image to a person was just not worth it in the case of us ordinary folks. Now all that has changed.

Its not all gloom, doom and big brother. No doubt there will  be beneficial uses of this technology as well as harmful ones but the fact is the world is now a different place. There is no going back.


Cap'n John said...

I read a Sci Fi short-story a while back where Bill Gates had taken over the world.

The resistance groups had to draw up all of their anti-Bill Gates posters by hand because any picture of Bill that was being copied or printed on a computer (scanner/printer/copier, etc) would set off the facial recognition software & summon the authorities.

mbp said...


The thing is we really aren't that far off certain companies being able to do stuff like that. Imagine what an evil genius could do at the helm of either Microsoft of Google?