Mar 31st, 2011

[Hoax Alert]: Looks like we’ve been had, folks. (For the facial recognition part of this story, anyway.) Google has chimed in to let folks know that the story – originally published by CNN – is bogus. While they didn’t completely deny that they’re working on something like this, they state that the information presented by CNN is purely speculative.

Google says they’d  never add a feature like this to any of their applications without some strong privacy braces in place – I’m sure they don’t want to step on the FTC’s toes again. And that’s that. The privacy policy bit is still valid. Here’s an excerpt from Google’s full statement on the matter:

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.

A couple of interesting stories have come from the Google camp. After irresponsibly handling updates to Google Buzz where users were exposed to privacy-altering changes without their consent, the Federal Trade Commission and Google have agreed to review their privacy policy every two years.

Furthermore, Google will be required to change their service from allowing a user to opt out to requiring them to opt-in to certain features before they can use them. It’s a welcome change that should make a lot of folks happy who feel they were violated in the first place.

One of those new services you’ll soon have to opt-in to is a facial recognition engine that has become known as “Google Goggles for people”. It’s simple, you snap or select a photo of someone’s face and Google will search the world wide web trying to match the image up with profile pages on social networking sites that person may be a member of.

It’ll return information such as name and place of birth among other things. It’s a very interesting concept on paper but I have to see this thing in action before getting excited about it. I know Facebook has some fairly-reliable technology to automatically tag your friends in pictures you upload, but that doesn’t always work too well itself. [via ReadWriteWeb]