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  • Face-Recognition Web Search: Just a Matter of Time?

    Posted by Jonathan on November 17th, 2005 (All posts by )


    I think it’s prudent to assume that improved technology will eventually make it possible for anybody to read the encrypted documents that you send via email today. Similarly, you should probably assume that any photos in which you appear that are posted on the Web, even without captions, will eventually be searchable. (Being searchable by name is merely a matter of linking your image to one captioned photo.) Depending on the sophistication of the search algorithms and the quality of the images, this should apply to crowd photos, other people’s snapshots where you appear in the background, etc.

    Search algorithms are Google’s strong point, and the Company already has a very effective text-based “Image Search” system. Improvements in that system seem certain, and I’m sure will bring widespread benefits that offset at least some of the costs. However, it’s increasingly clear that privacy as it existed before 1995 is a thing of the past.

    From a business POV we are still in early days. Google reminds me of Microsoft in the early ’90s, except that I think Google has greater potential. The next few years should be interesting in many ways.


    5 Responses to “Face-Recognition Web Search: Just a Matter of Time?”

    1. Bernard Moon Says:

      I’ll assume you didn’t know about Riya ( Rumors flying around in Silicon Valley that Google is about to buy them out (before they launch) for about $40 million.

    2. Brock Says:

      This would save me considerable time if they integrated it into Picasa.

      As for the Privacy issues, I suggest anyone who wants to get an idea of what living in a post-Google world will be like should read “The Transparent Society” by David Brin.

    3. Shannon Love Says:

      I seldom use encryption because I think it safer to always operate on the assumption that your electronic information is readable by all.

    4. Brock Says:

      I just realized this would also be useful for Google Video. They could search still frames of video for people & places. Combine that with searchable voice recognition technology and video becomes as searchable as a text-based blog.

    5. Jonathan Says:

      Interesting comments, thanks.

      Bernard, if you follow the link it leads to a couple of blog posts about Google’s acquisition of Riya.

      Brock, yes, Riya would be very helpful as part of Picasa, and for any business that uses a photo database. The categorization of photos is currently a huge time-sink for anyone who has to do it. And of course you are right about video. That is the problem from the POV of privacy: this technology has so many good uses that it will be impossible to restrict its development.

      Shannon, like you I rarely use encryption. I assume that everything is public. Also, there is so much information floating around that the odds someone who wants to harm you will find your information are low.