Google won't release awesome facial recognition app

Privacy concerns prompt Google to delay release and "figure out" how to handle handy -- and a bit unnerving -- technology.

Google has created a facial recognition app that can provide all kinds of personal information on the people around you, but says it's not releasing the technology due to privacy concerns.

CNN reported that facial recognition would be a part of Google Goggles, an existing feature of Google's Search app that uses smartphone cameras to recognize objects, scan barcodes, translate text and even solve Sudoku puzzles. The facial recognition feature can associate people with social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, and provide other publicly-available information.

Although Google has no release timeline for the feature, it has begun to figure out how to address privacy concerns, CNN reports, including an opt-in system that would only recognize people who allowed it.

That's where things get a bit messy.

After CNN's report, Google said the privacy details were based on inaccurate conjecture and demanded a retraction. "As we've said for over a year, we won't add face recognition to Goggles unless we can figure out a strong privacy model for it," Google said in a statement to Search Engine Land. "We haven't figured it out."

CNN stands by the story, noting that the interview with Hartmut Neven, a Google engineering director, was on the record with a public relations representative present. "Additionally, we have an audio recording of the interview, as does Google," CNN says.

Let's parse this back and forth. Google doesn't deny that it has developed the facial recognition feature. The company is merely saying that it won't release the technology unless it can address privacy concerns. But CNN's story doesn't say that Google is releasing the technology. In fact, it says that there's no release timeline, and that Google has only begun to establish how the privacy element would work. The wording of Google's statement ("We haven't figured it out") even suggests that the company is still interested in finding a solution.

Perhaps Google is disputing CNN's claim users would have to opt in to the feature, but I doubt it. As part of Google's recent settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over Google Buzz, the company must now ask users to opt in before sharing their information. If Google ever released facial recognition for Google Goggles, I'm sure the terms of the FTC settlement would come into play.

Despite Google's attempts to spin the story, I don't see any major errors on CNN's part; but either way, I hope the facial recognition feature sees the light of day. It may seem creepy, but think of all the times you've spotted someone across the room that you recognize, but whose name you can't remember. Facial recognition could be a useful tool if Google puts the right privacy safeguards in place. I hope the company figures it out.

Follow Jared on Facebook and Twitter as well as Today @ PCWorld for even more tech news and commentary.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags privacyinternetGooglesearch enginessearch

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jared Newman

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?