Google’s Facial Recognition App: Take My Photo, Get My Contact Info [UPDATE]

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Google is working on a mobile application that will delight some and creep out others—THERE CAN BE NO MIDDLE GROUND!

It’s a facial recognition app that’ll allow you to take a photo of someone, which it’ll match to photos in that person’s Google Profile, and then return that person’s contact information to you, according to CNN.

You’ll have to opt in to the program, giving Google permission to analyze photos of yourself stored inside Google’s Picasa photo service. The facial recognition technology may be subject to privacy concerns even after opting in, though, as anyone with the app would theoretically be able to take a photo of you and get your contact information—strangers included. Fun, huh?

Google already has robust image recognition technology in place with its “Google Goggles” app, which allows users to receive information by taking  photos of objects, buildings and landmarks. Facial recognition technology is already built into Picasa as well, “helping the software identify friends and family members in your computer’s photo library,” says CNN.

Google’s facial recognition app is currently in development, though the company hasn’t announced a release date yet.

UPDATE: Google is denying that such an app is in development at all, calling CNN’s story “purely speculative” and “inventions of the reporter.”

The CNN article features several quotes from the supposed “director for the project” and features a photo of the apparent project director, too, so this is certainly an interesting twist.

Here’s the full quote from Google:

“I left you a voicemail about this, but saw your story based on CNN’s speculative and inaccurate piece on a face recognition app and wanted to reach out — your story is wrong because CNN’s story is wrong.  In fact, we are NOT ‘introducing a mobile application’ (as  the CNN piece claims)  and as we’ve said for over a year, we would NOT add face recognition to any app like Goggles unless there was a strong privacy model in place. A number of items ‘reported’ in the story, such as a potential app connecting phone numbers, email addresses and other information with a person’s face, are purely speculative and are inventions of the reporter.”

So there you have it.

I didn’t actually think this app sounded all that outlandish, to be honest. I’d opt into it myself if the privacy model worked on some sort of notification and approval system. If someone wants my contact information, they could take a photo of me and then I’d get an e-mail asking whether or not I approve the transfer of my contact info to that person. Perhaps something similar to how Facebook e-mails you if someone tags you in a photo, except with the added step of you having to approve the transfer.

Follow-up Story: CNN Strikes a Chord with Google Over Facial Recognition Article

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