SALT LAKE CITY — A new facial recognition application being developed by Google would allow users to take a photo of someone and use that photo to pull up links to other publicly available photos of that person on sites such as Facebook. But privacy experts say this could present major concerns.
CNN is reporting Google is working on such software as part of its "Google-Goggles" application, and in fact the technology to carry such a scenario out is already there.
But no matter who might provide such a service one day, David Lundberg, a private detective and director of Utah Detective.com, sees some potential problems.
For one thing, he says, most of the photos posted on social sites portray people at their best. "Which means the photos are good, they're cheerful, they're smiling, they're happy," Lundberg said. "Unless you can capture a photo that identifies that person in that kind of attitude and that kind of appearance you may not get a direct hit."
Lundberg says that could potentially lead to the wrong person and ultimately violate privacy concerns.
One possible way around those concerns might be an opt-in agreement, allowing links only to those who choose to take part. "If you want to be able to be recognized in a crowd by someone and have it lead back to your Facebook, that's fine," said Lundberg.
In fact, from an investigative standpoint, he says that's a good thing.
But Lundberg says it's amazing to him what people will still put on social networks. "The first place I go is Google," he said. "It's free and it's cheap, and I can find tons of information on individuals just by typing in their name and the state where they live."
He says everybody should be careful about what they post. "You and your friends are not the only people that can get access to that (information)," he said.
In a statement, a Google spokesperson said, "As we've said for more than a year, we will not add facial recognition to Goggles unless we have strong privacy protections in place. We're still working on them. We have nothing to announce at this time."
The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday announced a proposed settlement with Google over its social network "Google Buzz." The site quickly turned off a service when it launched last year that gathered information on participants' email lists.
The FTC alleges Google violated its own privacy policies when launching Buzz. As part of the settlement, the company would have to submit to privacy audits over the next 20 years. It would also have to gain' permission before disclosing customer information.