Google executives have publicly admitted on a couple of occasions that they have held back from introducing facial recognition technology into the Monster of Mountain View’s products, presumably because doing so would be an embarrassingly obvious jump over “creepy line” former CEO Eric Schmidt says the company avoids trying to cross (in order to prevent there from being a big public and regulatory backlash against Google). But that hardly means the company isn’t working on developing extremely invasive technologies behind the scenes, as this update from CNET shows:
Google is close to completing its deal to buy Viewdle, a Ukrainian maker of facial recognition technology that automatically tags photos, according to a person familiar with the deal.
The acquisition, which has been in the works for more than a year, is expected to close this week, the person said.
Representatives from Google and Viewdle declined to comment.
The move makes sense for Google because Viewdle’s technology provides a way for users of Google+, Android, Picasa, and other services on a range of devices to easily (even, automatically) tag photos of friends. Viewdle’s SocialCamera app automatically tags Facebook friends and the company has released an Android game called Third Eye.
Facebook also has made a play in this space, earlier this year buying Face.com along with its Photo Tagger auto-tagging app.
The reason Google and Facebook are so interested in facial recognition technology is that they want to be able to add faces to their rapidly growing databases, which contain profiles of millions of people. The companies already have access to a treasure trove of sensitive information, including names, phone numbers, addresses, credit cards, interests, relationships, and so forth. But they want more. The ability to associate photos of people with their profiles could be very lucrative.