Five ways Facebook could use your face

Now that Facebook has officially swallowed Face.com, its facial recognition tech is about to get a lot better. What could happen then? Here are five possible scenarios.

I have a 13 year old daughter, which means that every third conversation lately has been going something like this:

Me: Honey, your room is a mess.

She: Your face is a mess.

Or like this:

Me: Could you turn the radio down? That Kesha song is obnoxious.

She: Your face is obnoxious.

And so on. It turns out that, for reasons unknown, my daughter has a deep interest in my face, which gives her something in common with Facebook.

Facebook is deeply interested in my face. And your face, and your friends’ faces, and the visages of 900 million others. If it wasn’t, why else did Zuckerberg & Friends just buy Face.com?

The acquisition, which has been circulating around the rumor mill for more than two weeks, just became a reality earlier today when Face.com CEO Gil Hirsch acknowledged in a blog post the deal had been consummated.

How will Facebook use Face.com’s technology, which includes things like algorithms that can predict your age and mood based entirely on your face?

Only Facebook knows for sure. But one likely way is to simply augment its own facial recognition technology, which is used to suggest photo tags when you upload pix of your friends. (Remember, friends don’t let friends tag photos – pass it on.)

Another likely way is to add this kind of auto-tagging capability to Facebook’s mobile app, where Facebook is lagging badly and where Face.com’s Klik app is far ahead. Those are no brainers. But how else could Facebook use your face?

* As a log in. I do think that biometric logins will become standard on devices and networks because, frankly, passwords suck. Web cams are pretty standard these days, and facial recognition is better than many methods. It’s not as accurate as, say, retina scans or fingerprints, but much harder to steal than passwords and slightly less creepy in that Minority Report kind of way.

As Facebook moves onto mobile devices and other other platforms like public kiosks or home appliances where typing and other forms of biometrics are impractical, facial recognition would be an easy, low cost approach – and I’m sure many FB fans would welcome it.

* To ferret out fakes. In my ongoing research into Facebook fakes, it seems a lot of FB bot operators lazily reuse the same photos over and over again. Routine facial recognition scans could put the kibosh on those pretty quickly.

* To suggest friends. If a photo can predict age and mood, what’s to say it can’t predict other affinities between users? Blondes may be attracted to other blondes and shun brunettes, for example. Facebook’s own “People You May Know” algorithms are fairly flawed, and these guys aren’t exactly shy about using your data in any way you’ll let them.

* To help law enforcement. Make no mistake, if the technology is available and a law enforcement agency wants to run a facial scan on Facebook members to find people hiding under aliases – or even family law attorneys seeking deadbeat dads – it’s going to happen. All it requires is the proper paperwork.

* For data mining. Let’s face it: We’re all getting tossed into buckets created by data miners seeking correlations between data point A and data points B, C, and D. If you “Like” certain brands, you are more likely to like other brands – this much we already know – and thus will see different ads based on that data. So why would photos be treated any differently?

If people with crooked noses and buck teeth prove to big fans of tramp stamp tattoos and Captain Morgan Rum, they’re probably also big fans of Jim Beam and Little Debbie snack cakes – and will likely see ads for all of those things, even if they never clicked “Like” on any of them.

Likewise, if people whose photos display male pattern baldness and narrow-set eyes tend to be 5.2 percent more likely to issue fraudulent insurance claims, you might find yourself also denied insurance, you rodent faced baldy, and never know the reasons why.

Ultimately it’s all just data, used in ways most mortals have no idea about but banks, insurance companies, and advertisers are keenly interested in.

Are there nastier more paranoid implications one can draw from all this? You bet. But I’ll leave those for another time. I can’t face them at the moment.

Got a question about social media? TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan may have the answer (and if not, he’ll make something up). Visit his snarky, occasionally NSFW blog eSarcasm or follow him on Twitter: @tynanwrites. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-to’s, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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