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Face Recognition is Closer than You Think March 3, 2012

Posted by Peter Varhol in Software platforms, Technology and Culture.
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Over the last year I’ve switched from Snapfish to Google Picasa to place my photos online.  Snapfish was becoming increasingly difficult for some of my contacts to view, and some were reluctant to sign up for an account required for viewing.

Picasa, on the other hand, offered a granularity of viewing options (I don’t make my photos totally public; however, I do make them readily viewable to anyone who has the link to the relevant folder).

Picasa is interesting in that it includes an application on your computer for collecting and managing photos.  I recently discovered a photo category on the Picasa application called People.  When I first clicked on it, a disclaimer/policy message appeared.  I glanced at it before continuing, and only later realized that it wanted me to associate names with the facial images it had pulled from my photos.

Here’s what Google says about the Picasa name tags:

•Name tags help you organize your photos by what matters most: the people in them.

•Picasa identifies similar faces in your photos and puts these into the “Unnamed people” album. To add a name tag, just click “Add a name” and type the person’s name.

•After you’ve tagged some pictures, you can do creative things with your name tags, like finding all the photos with the same two people in them or creating a face collage.

I’m personally ambiguous about privacy.  I’ve adapted to many of the changes in expectations we’ve experienced over the last twenty years, while also declining to participate in some of them.  There is little of my persona that I wish to remain hidden, but there is danger in knowing too much about others.

Face recognition sounds like a bridge too far.  It’s not even every possible scenario, because face recognition has the potential to do a lot of good, such as finding criminals or missing persons.  But if I can take your photo, and within seconds know your name and all searchable details, then I know too much about you.

I am not a stalker.

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