Update: Google just clarified that they are not yet working on a Face detection app and there were factual errors in the CNN report. See the bottom of the post for an updated statement from Google.
Google is working on face identification software that will detect your face and display personal information about you. The product will be available as a mobile app. For this app to work, you have to opt-in and allow Google access to your personal information and to your picture for the identification purpose. The concept sounds cool, and Google can deliver a killer app if they manage to keep the creep factor out of this app.
This app can raise some serious privacy outcry. Hartmut Neven, the Google engineering director for image-recognition development says,
In order to be identified by the software, people would have to check a box agreeing to give Google permission to access their pictures and profile information. We recognize that Google has to be extra careful when it comes to these [privacy] issues.
The project is still in an initial stage and there is no release date yet. However, Google says that people have been asking for a feature like this, from a long time. However, Google has too much to lose if it makes a wrong move in this project. This will always be a constrain in services involving user’s privacy.
This can do wonders when combined with the Social aspect Google has been working on. Overall, the app will be received well as people will love to appear on a people-search powered by Google.
Update: I spoke with a Google spokesperson who denied that they are working on a face recognition app for Google Goggles or other technologies.
Statement From A Google Spokesperson
As we’ve said for more than a year, we will not add facial recognition to Goggles unless we have strong privacy protections in place. We’re still working on them. We have nothing to announce at this time.
Update 2: CNN also issued a statement in support of the reporter saying that they stand by him and the interview was arrange by Google PR themselves.
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.
Additional reporting by Keith Dsouza.