Google Face Recognition App Rumor Denied, Revives ConcernsApr 1st, 2011 | By Roy Rasmussen | Category: Technology and Science
Google has denied a story posted on CNN earlier today claiming that the search engine company is making a face recognition app that would potentially compromise personal security. However the rumor has revived concerns about potential abuses of smartphone technology.
Smartphones offer users the ability to view mobile maps, pulled from global positioning satellite (GPS) data that relates the user’s location to map information. This is handy for looking up directions, finding the nearest store, and other applications.
But a security drawback of this feature is that when you take a picture with your smartphone, your location can get encoded into the picture without your knowledge, unless you adjust your settings to disable this feature. If you then upload the picture to the Internet or send it via Twitter, a tech-savvy stalker can use your picture to track down your location and other personal information. For instance, a determined stalker could potentially use a child’s picture to locate their home, map out their bedroom and yard, identify their school, and find the nearest playground. This has consumer advocates and law enforcement experts concerned about the possibility that smartphone pictures pose privacy risks.
The CNN story claimed Google was making an app that would enable smartphone users to obtain GPS-related personal information by snapping a picture of a person and then feeding the image into a face recognition software database. This rumor was based on a misinterpretation of an interview with a Google engineer. Google has stated that it would not release this type of technology without strong security safeguards.
However the technological potential to do this does exist and is a legitimate concern. Face recognition software is used regularly for identification purposes by security companies, law enforcement, and visa processors at the US State Department. Face recognition features allowing online photos to be associated with persons for search purposes have been introduced by Windows Live Photo Gallery, Facebook, Google’s Picassa, Apple’s iPhoto, and Sony’s Motion Picture Browser.
One way to protect yourself from the potential risk posed by such technology is to adjust your smartphone’s GPS settings. You can disable your GPS settings entirely, but this will keep you from accessing maps and other features. To retain use of these features, you can disable only GPS settings for pictures you plan to post online. For details about how to do this, there are security sites with information about smartphone privacy, such as I Can Stalk U.