Facial Recognition for the masses?

Up until recently facial recognition was something of crime novels, or police super computers, but Google’s Picasa web album, image sharing service introduced its very own facial recognition technology this week.

The new ‘name tagging” feature, identifies faces within uploaded images and asks users to identify those faces with the name and email address of the subject. Picasa very quickly learns to identify faces on its own, and starts to automatically tag them whenever it sees them again.

The technology will undoubtedly take the hard work out of tagging photographs, and will make finding images of people much easier both from within the site and via search engine queries (if the images are marked as public).

But is it all getting a little “big brother”? and what does it mean in terms of our privacy. Do we as individuals have any control over what is being published about us on the internet?

Many employers are now routinely “googling” potential employee before asking them to interview, so it you have a myspace page, a facebook account or a blog you can maybe expect that to be seen, depending on what you’ve choosen to share or keep private. But you have a little less control when it comes to what photos of yourself that others have chosen to share,  maybe its a drunken stag night image, or a fancy dress costume you once wore, but do you really want a potential employer to see it?

In the past those photos may have existed, but they were relatively hard to find, because they were either not tagged, or where somewhere that obscure that only close friends would ever see them, but now there’s a chance they will be alot more visible, firstly because they will be tagged, secondly because picasa is part of google and therefore much more likely to be picked up by the Google search engines, and finally because when you look at the terms and conditions on sites like picasa or the new chrome search engine, you’ll see that all images uploaded give full copyright to the service owner, so should you choose to take an image down you may find its not that simple.

Facial Recognition for the masses?