Google won't dabble in facial recognition search system

Eric Schmidt said the accuracy of facial recognition technology is 'very concerning'

Google will not be building a facial recognition search system, even though facial recognition technology is quickly advancing. According to The Telegraph, Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, believes the "surprising accuracy" of facial recognition technology is "very concerning."

According to Schmidt, who spoke at Google's Big Tent conference in London, a database using facial recognition software is "unlikely" to be a service that Google will create. Schmidt did suggest that, while Google may not build a facial recognition search system, "some company, by the way, is going to cross that line."

That last comment may have been a subtle stab at Facebook, which recently started using facial recognition technology as a means of helping its users tag photos. I wouldn't be surprised, considering Facebook was recently caught attempting a smear campaign against Google (ironically, the campaign was about Google's alleged violation of user privacy).

Google-Facebook catfights aside, Schmidt's concern about facial recognition is a relief (even though it's really hard not to laugh when anyone from Google talks about privacy). A facial recognition search system would be extremely troubling, so it's good to hear the largest search provider is at least sort of on our side.

And this isn't the first time a Google official has confirmed that the company thinks face recognition is kind of creepy; in April, Google announced that it had created a facial recognition app, but would not be releasing it because of privacy concerns. I'm actually starting to believe that Google does care about user privacy.

While this is good news from Google, Facebook is actually better poised to create and release an accurate facial recognition search system -- and nobody from Facebook has stepped forward to say they will not do it. After all, Facebook is sitting on a huge, 600,000,000-member database of people's faces.

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Sarah Jacobsson Purewal

PC World (US online)
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