Privacy concerns arise from Google Goggles facial recognition/stranger identifier search results…

by Mike
Posted December 14th, 2009 at 7:05 am

Simply taking a picture of some object and using it to search for more relevant information doesn’t seem that difficult until you actually think about the tools necessary to complete such a search. I mean, taking a picture of a simple can of beans (it’s early and I’m hungry) means the phone/software has to properly determine what is text/images before actually searching for it so it knows what to search for. Second, the actual algorithms for the search software then have to somehow find the exact brand of beans in front of you as well as pull any relevant information from the cloud. Of that information, there are countless options and things to weed through so irrelevant information doesn’t pollute your search results. But that is all bridge under the water as the end user doesn’t really care how it works. They only care when it doesn’t work, or more importantly, works too well. Such is the case unfolding with Google Goggles, Google’s new image based search software.

Apparently, Goggles even has facial recognition built in. “Awesome” you think. Now random creepers lurking in your neighborhood who you’ve always wondered about can be explored from the safety of your couch. Are they a sex offender, previously in jail for murder, a drug addict? Such things are helpful to know. But as with all new and emerging technology, someone has a problem with it, labeling the facial recognition aspect of the software in particular a threat. For that reason, Google has for the time being, blocked any image searches involving faces or facial recognition until they can “better implore the ramifications of such a feature”.

I can honestly see both sides of the issue. While it would be nice to know about potential stranger dangers, being able to snap pictures of random people walking by, hit up Google Goggles and all of a sudden know the person’s entire biography are interesting, compelling, and scary all at the same time. I mean, it would be useful say if you’re trying to learn more about a new employer, more particularly a new boss, so that you can impress them to the best of your (newly acquired) knowledge. Again however, having such untouched and easy access to the inner workings of peoples’ lives opens a pandora’s box for privacy concerns.

One could argue though that in this digital age, with Facebook, MySpace, a half a bajillion other social networking sites that privacy has gone by the wayside. Take a stroll MySpace or Facebook and look at some of idiots on there and the moronic stuff they actually post for the world to see — and they wonder why they get fired for calling their boss a fat pig on their wall…?

Even still, social networking and the information uploaded by users is just that — user generated. I’m sure people aren’t going to upload their address, social security number, age, birthplace, etc. Such information is extremely private (at least it used to be) and extremely vulnerable to Google Goggles and other types of software.

The greater flexibility and freedom consumers are gaining will mean ever greater responsibility. In the hands of most, it will simply mean a fun day at the park randomly snapping pictures of strangers and giggling at their personal bio that Google Goggles returns. But in the wrong hands, your life and all of the information you hold near and dear could be made available for the entire world to see against your will.

I’m not trying to stir up any mass hysteria or some big angry “anti-Goggles” mob. In fact I like Goggles and privacy concerns withstanding, would still love the facial recognition feature to make a comeback. But I’m sure many of you feel different. What’s your take? Should Google Goggles be allowed or is it an evil creation of the technology age? Just understand when one technology falls or is shuttered, several more pop up ready and waiting to replace it…

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One ResponseLeave a comment
  • Genesis
    January 5, 2010 at 8:50 am

    The face recognition is a tad frightening. I would be extremely useful for police and such . . . grabbing everything rapidly while chasing a suspect could be really great. However, it also has serious potential for misuse and where there’s potential, there are people willing to exploit.

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