Posted May 20, 2010 2:53 pm by with 10 comments

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Just what Google needs right now: a way to look even more invasive. Privacy concerns for the Internet and Google in particular have skyrocketed this year, as Buzz has prompted privacy concerns since the day it rolled out. But the trend goes further back with Google Street View.

Although that service blurs the images of passersby and license plates (and will remove images on request), Google is thinking about going to the opposite extreme soon: facial recognition technology, the Financial Times reports.

Oh great.

FT points out that Google already uses the technology in Picasa, so it certainly has the capacity to expand the service. (They chose not to include it in Google Goggles, though.) CEO Eric Schmidt said:

“Facial recognition is a good example . . . anything we did in that area would be highly, highly planned, discussed and reviewed. When you go through these things, you review your management procedures.”

However, he would not rule out any eventual roll-out, saying: “It is important that we continue to innovate.”

Highly planned, discussed and reviewed—like the company’s recent gaffe when it realized it had inadvertently collected payload data for public wireless networks as it logged SSIDs and MAC addresses? (To Google’s credit, they deleted the data, stopped all collection and came clean when they discovered their error.) Or would that be highly planned, discussed and reviewed like Buzz was(n’t)?

With the government already breathing down the neck of the search giant, now might not be a good time to contemplate something that invasive. On the other hand, of course, perhaps facial recognition technology would be just the thing to broker a deal between Google and the feds, and together they could track us everywhere we go. (Note to the paranoid: this is highly unlikely—the government already has facial recognition technology.)

What do you think? Is this something Google should just stay away from?

  • Hey Jordan,
    Is there no stopping the mighty Google. I live in the Uk where our government have just abolished ID cards, but like you say the big governments still have technology for tracking us wherever we go, all we need is the search engines seeing us. All sounds a little scary to me.

  • Free Online Reputation Management Beginner’s Guide

    Andy, What a great article!

    How about coming out with the “advance guide”?

  • > (To Google’s credit, they deleted the data, stopped all collection and came clean when they discovered their error.)

    Well, no, they didn’t. They’ve stopped collecting, but they have not deleted the data. And they have not “come clean.” A criminal investigation was opened against Google in Germany yesterday.

    It doesn’t make sense that they could have collected data for three years without noticing. In three years, they must have added new cars to the fleet, updated equipment, etc. That means new hard disks were added for the data.

    What about Google phones? Are these collecting data? What about location? Is this being stored?

    What about gMail? Have you noticed that it now doesn’t let you see oldest deleted email? Just “thousands” are listed. It says that items deleted over 30 days ago are removed, but no, they’re not. Go to your gmail account and look.

    There is no independent verification that these are actually deleted. Just “trust us.” Well, we trusted, and it turns out they were collected WiFi data.

    There needs to be independent verification of the data collection, data use, and data deletion.

  • I seriously don’t think they delete the data they capture, its a sample data they capture and go back to the lab for further studies and fine tuning the technology – just my two cents.
    .-= wilson´s last blog ..Good etiquette of a blogger =-.

  • That is what Google gets for trying to be too greedy about capturing peoples information
    .-= Impulse Magazine´s last blog ..What Russell Crowe thinks about his new movie =-.

  • I think given all the privacy problems Google have been (quite publicly) having lately, they shouldn’t touch it with a barge poll – look at what’s happening already at the mere mention of it? Surely they’ve got to cotton on soon that they’re taking things too far?
    .-= Luci´s last blog ..50 Essential SEO Video Tutorials, Tips and Tricks =-.

  • GeekWizard

    So, has no one else noticed that Facebook already does facial recognition? Try hovering over someone’s image on a posted pic. If they’re on Facebook, they’re tagged with their *real name* not their Facebook screenname. I haven’t tested whether privacy settings have any affect on that, though.

    • Facebook doesn’t do that; your friends do that. And you can always remove a tag of yourself. (And your real name IS your “Facebook screenname.”)

      • GeekWizard

        Fascinating. Where do your friends do this, because three of us have been trying to find the image metadata setting that would enable such tagging, and can’t find anything.

        Also, I’ve since deleted my Facebook account, but when I had one, my screenname was NOT my real name. 🙂

        • GeekWizard

          YAY! I love it when I can eat crow. I finally found someone who showed me the tagging and it is manual. *phew*