THE COMPANY AT THE TOP of the internet food chain, Google has bought Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition, or PittPatt, a company that specialises in facial recognition software.
PittPatt was a technology spin-off started by Carnegie Mellon boffins who have created "reliable face recognition software for images and video". In other words, instant face recognition from still photos and moving video. While US Homeland Security could be all over this, it's Google that is snapping up the technology.
With Google+ swelling its ranks by the minute, the specialty dish at PittPatt is almost a must-have for an outfit like Google. This leaves Facebook eating its dust in terms of social interaction. Just back from the holidays and anxious to show off your photos and videos? No problem, simply upload the media and the software will take care of the rest.
There is a caveat to this simple usage, though. While integrating this sort of software into its booming social network might be easy, the user agreement for Google+ might thicken two-fold just to cover all the legal issues related to privacy.
Social networking-wise, automatically identifying your buddies might be good fun, and even finding out who the photobombing weirdo is in the background is an added bonus. Unintentional identification or mistaken identities of parties might lead to more than the odd request to remove the photo or movie. Google operates under the assumption that its users are the "do no evil" kind, but you know the saying about one bad apple.
In Europe, the situation might be a bit more delicate than the potentially awkward 'caught being too friendly with a co-ed in Cabo'. Considering Google's unfortunate Street View history with European legislators, in particular in Germany, we aren't quite sure how this will go down with the privacy monitors in Berlin, not to mention Brussels.
Trigger-happy critics will be quick to point out that this will create another Street View-like privacy issue, but in this case there is a slight difference. While Google might have erred with Street View as it put private information into company hands without consent from third parties, the situation with social networks is that each user will be responsible for what he or she posts. µ