Facebook Facial Recognition for Picture Uploads

April 5th, 2011

Now college students everywhere who drunkenly upload photographs from last night can figure out who that grenade is in the pic. From Engadget, a post titled Facebook planning facial recognition for picture uploads?

It is indeed less earth-shattering than that alleged (and, it turns out, false) Google app we heard about a few days back, but one of our loyal readers has stumbled across what appears to be an up-and-coming (and thus far inactive) facial recognition feature in his Facebook privacy settings. And, you know what? We have found the same thing! Although we are somewhat mollified by the prospect that this bad boy (when and if it becomes active) will only highlight our mug in pictures uploaded by friends, we bemoan the possibility that even more of our lives will be spent untagging ourselves from embarrassing party snaps.

Like Google’s rumored facial recognition app, this product fulfills a prediction I made way back in 2008 in Omniveillance:

With the advent of photo-sharing Internet sites like Flikr, MySpace, and Facebook, people can now upload photographs and “tag” a specific person’s identity in the photo with metadata, as if they were captioning it in a scrapbook (i.e., John Doe is the third person on the left). Although currently the tagging process must be done manually, new facial recognition such as Google’s Picasa system utilizes artificial intelligence computers to automatically index and tag the subjects of photographs.147 Software like Polar Rose is capable of scanning the entire World Wide Web, matching faces with previously tagged photos based on similarities in biometric features, and automatically tagging the photo with the person’s identity.148 Berners-Lee mentions tagging as one of the key prerequisites to the semantic web.149

Once an image is tagged, these captions can be searched and indexed like any other document on the Internet. As a result of this emerging image-analysis technology, a search engine like Google can easily correlate a person’s face with his name, contact information, personal preferences, friends, and any of his personal information located on the Internet. In fact, Google’s Director of Product Management, R.J. Pittman, “said that Google is developing visual crawling software that can be used for facial recognition and scene analysis.”150 Applied to Street View, this future technology can be combined with tagging and advanced image search capabilities to identify anyone who is recorded by omniveillance.

Omniveillance is on its way.