Yesterday, Google executive Eric Schmidt spoke to a captivated crowd about privacy at the company's "Big Tent" conference on internet privacy in London yesterday. Calling the "surprising accuracy" of new facial recognition technology "very concerning," Schmidt said it was "unlikely" that Google would develop a database with the ability to recognize people's faces. "Some company is going to cross that line," he added.
But according to at least two patent applications, one made public today, one in February, Google itself was very much looking into crossing the line, at one point. Teams of engineers in Mountain View appears to have filed at least two patent applications for facial recognition technology on behalf of Google Inc. The first application for a "Facial Recognition with Social Networking Aiding" went to the World International Property Organization on August 6, 2010. The application's abstract describes a "facial recognition search system" that essentially scans images for the faces of your friends and returns the matches. Facebook has already released a feature that notices faces in photos and is rumored to be developing technology similar to what Google's patent describes.