A Thought: Facebook’s Facial Recognition “Feature”

by Justin Brown

We’ve all heard stories of how Facebook has allowed family members to reunite. How people found old high school sweethearts and friends. How companies increased sales based of the “likes” of people. How Facebook has brought the world together in communication. Facebook is ruling the world.

Not too long ago Facebook announced plans to roll out its facial recognition feature that will allow people to easily tag people by suggesting which friends are pictured. Facial recognition has been a “feature” of Facebook for some time now and how it works is based on the number of times you tag a specific person. The more you tag, the easier the software has to recognizing those people.

However, some people are freaked out about this and the security risk of personal information. Let’s face reality here though, our information is strewed all over the interwebs and it’s out of our control. We’re constantly signing up for emails, accepting offers, entering sweepstakes, making purchases and I gaurantee most of the time we don’t think twice about it. It’s become a way of life. Shoot, your service provider tracks your moves. Even your computer. The best thing we can do is monitor our accounts and information closely.

But let’s think about this Facebook “feature” of facial recognition for a minute. Facebook is the world’s leading social media platform. With over 600 million users and over 200 million photos uploaded each day, they’re already hosting over 90 billion photos already on their servers. Each time you tag a photo, Facebook’s facial technology learns more about what that person looks like. Sure you can opt-out of using this technology but let me share a thought.

At this point, the recent news of missing IU student, Lauren Spierer has received national attention. Celebrities and thousands of others have tweeted, Facebooked, or blogged about this case, and many other missing persons cases.

But I had a thought the other morning. If someone went missing, changed or made to change their hair color, name, makeup, etc., but still posted pictures or had them posted by someone else, could this facial recognition feature be a good thing? What if Facebook’s software was linked to the missing persons database? What if someone used their cellphone and posted pictures in the past or present, tagged those people or themselves, the facial recognition software extracted that geolocation data from the photos, pinged the location of their cellphone, cross referenced all of this information to the missing persons data base… could I be onto something? What if Facebook could help solve missing persons cases? Would it work? Did they think of this?

Thoughts?

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