Google wants your face

Google has filed for a patent on technology that uses facial recognition and social networks to identify you. Creeped out yet? I know I am.


Google wants to get in your face – literally.

As ComputerWorld blogger Darlene (“Security is Sexy”) Storm reports, Google has filed for a patent in Europe on technology that could allow it to identify you by your photograph, using clues from social networks to verify your identity.

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The patent application describes how such a system might work:

After receiving the visual query with one or more facial images, the system identifies images that potentially match the respective facial image in accordance with visual similarity criteria. Then one or more persons associated with the potential images are identified. For each identified person, person-specific data comprising metrics of social connectivity to the requester are retrieved from a plurality of applications such as communications applications, social networking applications, calendar applications, and collaborative applications. An ordered list of persons is then generated by ranking the identified persons in accordance with at least metrics of visual similarity between the respective facial image and the potential image matches and with the social connection metrics. Finally, at least one person identifier from the list is sent to the requester.

If I am interpreting that patent-speak correctly, it means Google will first examine the visual characteristics of a photo to determine if it’s a close match to the person you’re searching for, then use social networks and other sites to narrow the search and improve its accuracy.

In other words, if you’re searching for pictures of me and Google comes across some that look like that blurry sepia-toned snapshot floating above this post, it will then check Facebook, Linked In, Twitter et al to see if someone looking like me has profiles on those sites or if I’ve been tagged in images by people likely to be connected to me.

Google already does something similar to this via Google Goggles, which works on objects and buildings. Snap a photo of, say, a painting or a book or a cell phone, and Google will parse the visual data and find things that match. So, presumably, if you feed it your photo, it could conceivably figure out who you are and locate your Facebook profile, LinkedIn page, etc.

Are you creeped out yet? Cuz I am.

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