Google’s a company that can best be described as an engineer’s wet dream. It was founded by engineers, it’s run by engineers, and unless you’ve got hard data to support any of your statements during a meeting, you will be ignored. That being said, the stereotype of engineers being a bit … how should we put this, out of touch with both the formal and informal rules governing society, is definitely there when you look at some of the past decisions they’ve made around the areas of user privacy; just look at Google Buzz. The world breathed a collective sigh of relief about a month ago when former CEO Eric Schmidt said that despite the company having facial recognition technology in house, “it’s the only technology that Google built and after looking at it, we decided to stop.” That doesn’t explain then this recent report from the Wall Street Journal that says Google has spent an as yet to be identified sum of money on a 7 year old company known as Pittsburgh Pattern Recognition; “PittPatt” for short. It’s lead by 3 specialists with PhD’s from Carnegie Mellon University, exactly the type of talent Google loves.
So what’s Google going to do with this firm? They didn’t say, but here’s what we think: The first step might be to identify faces and objects in the vast stores of video Google has on YouTube. Such a dataset could prove highly lucrative if advertisers ever wanted to target specific content. Next they could introduce facial unlocking to Android, so passcodes will no longer be needed. Just look at the front of your smartphone, and boom, you’re in. Will Google be as ballsy as to enable facial recognition in their social networking service? It’s tough to say, we remember how people were scared to use the internet to do online shopping in the late 90s, but things change.
Should you be scared? Nah, Google doesn’t want to piss off the government.