The Pros and Cons of Face Recognition on Google

Google took the hassle out of tagging photos on its social networking site. Now when Google+ users upload photos, the Google+ servers will scour its archives and automatically identify faces and names. 

Find My Face, the new Google+ service, makes it easy to connect names with faces and could make the site easier to use than Facebook. Speculation that Google would introduce facial recognition on its network had long circulated, especially after the Internet behemoth absorbed a company called PittPatt. That company specializes in facial recognition software technologies and has already helped Google add facial recognition to the Android mobile operating system. 

Although Find My Face seems innovative at first, Google is again playing catch-up with Facebook. The leading social network has had a similar feature in place for a while now. 

One of the redeeming qualities of Google’s facial recognition engine is that it is a voluntary system. When users upload photos, they get the choice to either opt into the system or eschew it. This alleviates the concerns of some users who think the system puts their personal privacy and security at risk. 

Although the flexibility and convenience of Find My Face is exciting, some have serious concerns about the system. Google, well known for its tendency to harvest data to fuel its profits, could decide to use the facial recognition internally. This means that its servers can look for perfect candidates for advertisements. 

One way Google could use the facial recognition technology is to connect people with gray hair with hair coloring products. The system could also pick out people who appear overweight so advertisers can target them with weight-loss supplements and exercise programs. 

Perhaps a stronger downside to Google’s Find My Face is the risk of being surreptitiously identified in the background of a stranger’s photo. The security risk of betraying user’s whereabouts seems too weighty for many Google+ users. Unlike Facebook, which only tags people in photos if they are friends with the user uploading a photo, Find My Face reveals identities all across the network. This means users have no control over who gets to see them in pictures.

EWeek reports the U.S. Government has weighed in on the new technology. It warned companies that use facial recognition technology to be mindful of consumer privacy. 

The Federal Trade Commission sounded the warning that everyone is at risk from the new technology. People in stores can instantly be identified and evaluated for credit worthiness. Criminals can scan faces to identify people and their address, so they can find prime targets for burglaries. 

Employers can scan applicants before they apply to learn about their credit, legal and health histories. In an instant a person who might burden the employer’s health care plan can be rejected. 

The implications of facial recognition on Google+ add to the feeling that modern technology is costing people a lot more than they know.