Google launched the Find My Face tool for Google + users in late 2011. This tool helps users to tag pictures of family and friends they are already connected to over the network. The feature is an entirely optional one, which users can disable at any time. It came after much speculation earlier in the year that Google was set to launch a facial-recognition search which used photos from social networks.
In early 2011, Google applied for a patent based on facial-recognition technology. The blogosphere was full of guesses as to what Google was going to launch as a result of this. Speculation was quashed when then-Chairman Eric Schmidt declared in May that they would be unlikely to develop a facial-recognition search facility because of privacy fears. This was amid much criticism over privacy and ethics that had been directed at other social networks.
What was finally revealed was the Find My Face tool on Goggle +, Goggle’s own social network. Google + was launched in June 2011 and now has over 100 million users worldwide. Whether people on the network want to make use of the tool is entirely their own decision. The feature needs to be turned on by users and then friends and family are free to tag people in photos from prompts by Goggle. The idea behind this is that tagging can be time consuming and that this tool helps to make the arduous process easier and quicker.
The Importance of Privacy
Outsiders never really know the mysterious ways of Google. They never know how they decide in which ways search engine optimisation affects companies, or what amazing and innovative technologies they are going to show us next.
But with the Find My Face tool, it’s clear that public concern and potential privacy issues have affected how they choose to use the facial-recognition software. The pictures that are recognised by such a search will only be those of connected friends and family. Not only this, but the feature only works when users have opted in to have their pictures tagged.
As another security measure and because not everyone likes to be tagged for every picture, users can reject or accept every tagging. This comes as great news for those who are happy to be tagged when the lighting in a photo is complimentary, but would rather not be when it’s a bad shot in a bikini.
The new Find My Face tool also only applies to Goggle + users. At the moment, Google + has a far smaller share of the market than more established networks such as Facebook, but it is growing massively.
This new feature seems to be Google’s compromise in making the most of facial-recognition technology while keeping it safe and private. Users can opt in or out at any time and they can also reject tags if they so wish. Why Goggle decided to go for this functionality rather than a full-scale facial-recognition search system is uncertain, but concerns over privacy may well have been a factor.
The company, along with many other large internet players, has been in the firing line of activists and legislators over concerns about how it gathers and stores personal information. However, just as with the ever changing workings of search engine optimisation, it’s hard to predict what Google will think of or do next.
The above article is composed and edited by Roxanne Peterson