Face.com is making facial recognition software mainstream.
Founded in Israel in 2008, Face.com, whose product went live in 2010, lets developers use an API to install facial recognition software on their websites or apps. Once installed via a line of code, the software implements face recognition or detection. To date, 35,000 developers have installed it on their apps or websites, and the software has recognized or detected about 36 billion faces. All of this is offered for free.
In addition, the software can help everyday consumers quickly tag their own photos, and discover photos of themselves and their friends on social networks and the web.
“Our facial recognition analytics are able to identify faces well, despite difficult circumstances like poor lighting, poor focus, subjects wearing eyeglasses, facial hair, and even Halloween costumes,” according to the site’s about page. “Face recognition isn’t just for the government or in the movies – you can use it yourself in all kinds of ways, from tagging photos to social networking.”
Applications using the software range from fun ones–like Celebrityfindr, which scans Facebook and Twitter for photos that celebrities have uploaded–to useful ones–like PhotoTagger, which scans your photo albums and batches the people it finds into groups and suggests tags.
Yet one can easily imagine invasive scenarios for the software as well. One concern that comes to mind is ‘could someone I don’t know use Face.com to track down my appearance online?’
According to Face.com CEO Gil Hirsch, who was interviewed for a report in CNN Money, the software uses closed-network systems as a safeguard. In other words, it only works within closed networks like Facebook, Google+, or Twitter, to name just a few examples. This means that Face.com’s software is subject to your privacy restrictions. If your Facebook photos, for example, are set to ‘friends only’ then the only people who could use Face.com to scan your photos are your friends. The about page, however, did say its algorithms crawled search engines. So that means whatever photos are picked up by search engines, whichever photos are not set behind privacy firewalls, could be scanned and added to the database.
Face.com is not the only company out there offering these types of tools. This December Google+ launched a tool called Find my Face, which helps your friends find and tag photos of you and vice versa. Facebook announced a similar tool in June.