CNN Strikes a Chord with Google Over Facial Recognition Article

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CNN’s Mark Milian published an article yesterday concerning a facial recognition feature that Google’s been working on. You’d be able to use such a feature to take a photo of someone and, if that person allowed it, receive relevant information about him or her. The piece reads very much like an interview with the app’s developer and includes a photo of this developer as well. I reported about the feature here on Techland, too.

Yesterday afternoon, I received a voicemail and an e-mail from one of Google’s PR reps calling CNN’s article “speculative and inaccurate” and “inventions of the reporter.” The full quote can be found in the update to the original Techland post—other outlets received the same quote, too.

Milian provided some insight via his Twitter account, saying that “Google is arguing semantics. The story is accurate, but we are reviewing a Google spokesman’s concerns.” The article was eventually updated in a few spots, but the overall story hasn’t changed much.

CNN then released the following statement:

“Google’s claims do not fit the facts of the situation. This interview was prearranged – on the record – and staffed by a Google PR rep, who raised no objections at the time and did not deny what the engineer said. Additionally, we have an audio recording of the interview, as does Google. We stand firmly behind Mark’s reporting.”

As for changes to the original story, what was initially considered to be a mobile application for facial recognition has now been positioned as follows:

“The technology wouldn’t necessarily be rolled out in a separate app, a Google spokesman said. Instead, facial recognition could be issued as an update to an existing Google tool, such as its image search engine.”

The original article also alluded to the idea that the feature would be able to access information in your Google profile and that some of that information may consist of your name, e-mail address and phone number. That snippet of the article has now changed to:

“Google’s Profiles product includes a user’s name, phone number and e-mail address. Google has not said what personal data might be displayed once a person is identified by its facial-recognition system.”

And finally, the potential sources of photos that could be used to match photos with a person’s profile have been updated as well:

“Just as Google has crawled trillions of Web pages to deliver results for traditional search queries, the system could be programmed to associate pictures publicly available on Facebook, Flickr and other photo-sharing sites with a person’s name.”

The release timeline for this feature is still unknown. Google apparently already has “the technical capabilities to implement this type of search engine,” but the technology has been “frequently stalled internally because of concerns within Google about how privacy advocates might receive the product,” according the article.

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

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