Google Denies Working on A Freaky Facial Recognition App
Internet intrigue! A CNN story by Mark Milian reported that Google is working on a facial-recognition app that would be deployed in a manner similar to Google Goggles -- snap a picture of someone's face, and it leads back to their Google profile, more or less. We were all about to scream, "GOOGLE TO DESTROY LAST VESTIGES OF PRIVACY (AGAIN)" when suddenly we saw all of the retractions and updates screaming across our feeds: Google says much of the story is falsified.
An email from a Google spokesperson to Time's Techland reads thus:
I left you a voicemail about this, but saw your story based on CNN's speculative and inaccurate piece on a face recognition app and wanted to reach out -- your story is wrong because CNN's story is wrong. In fact, we are NOT "introducing a mobile application" (as the CNN piece claims) and as we've said for over a year, we would NOT add face recognition to any app like Goggles unless there was a strong privacy model in place. A number of items "reported" in the story, such as a potential app connecting phone numbers, email addresses and other information with a person's face, are purely speculative and are inventions of the reporter.
Of course, no one's denying that such tech exists. Google engineer Hartmut Neven boasts in the piece that the capability is there, but that the company's just trying to work out a non-terrifying privacy model. (Especially considering yesterday's Buzz settlement, and all of the Street View complaints.) But, then again, can we even trust Neven's quotes? Or did Neven actually speak out of turn about Google's plans for facial domination, leading the company to do some quick damage control? Either way, sounds like someone's head's gonna roll. We'll update as we find out more.
A CNN spokesperson reached out to us in a comment on this post. The network defends Milian's story through and through:
Google's claims do not fit the facts of the situation. This interview was prearranged – on the record – and staffed by a Google PR rep, who raised no objections at the time and did not deny what the engineer said. Additionally, we have an audio recording of the interview, as does Google. We stand firmly behind Mark's reporting.