updated 12:50 pm EDT, Thu March 31, 2011
Google mobile app recognizes faces for profiles
(Update 3: CNN backtracks, Google clarifies) Google is developing a mobile app that would recognize faces for the sake of profiles, the company's image recognition directo Harmut Neven said in an interview. The app, possibly a variant on Google Goggles, would link a person's to a Google profile. Neven's approach as described to CNN would give users quick access to contact information, much like a personal business card, and could also show photos from Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, and other sites attached to an account.
Privacy was a top priority, he said, though he didn't elaborate completely on how this would work. It would be opt-in, he said, preventing users from unwittingly being stalked or targeted. Testers had to grant explicit consent to have their photos taken.
The technology is a variant on that acquired along with Like.com and used in Picasa's facial recognition. Google Goggles and Google Shopper already use much of the company's existing image-based search know-how but currently recognize only abstract details.
Neven wouldn't say when the app would be released. Android is a certainty as the first platform and might be joined by iOS given Google's preferences for the two platforms.
Update: A Google spokeswoman said that much of the CNN story was false. It wasn't introducing a mobile app and wouldn't do so without privacy protections in place. Most of the article came from "inventions of the reporter," the company said.
Update 2: CNN's Mark Millan reached us and said the Google correction was a "carefully-worded ruse." It was "arguing semantics," he said, and the story was still accurate.
Update 3: Google partly backtracked from its earlier view and said that there were factual elements, but still believed the article had some elements it didn't say. Millan said Google misinterpreted his view and thought he meant a separate app when he left room for it to be rolled into an existing app, such as Goggles.