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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

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Google Not Planning To Release Mobile Face Recognition: Update

Contrary to what I reported earlier based on a seemingly very credible CNN report, Google is not planning to release a version of its mobile app Goggles with face recognition technology. Google has had the capability for several years but so far refrained from putting it out in the world other than on Picasa.

I spoke to Google at some length and a spokesperson said that the CNN piece was based on totally inaccurate conjuncture. That speculation was in turn based on an interview with a Google engineer Hartmut Neven taken out of context.

The Google spokesperson said that Google wouldn’t put out facial recognition in a mobile app unless there were very strict privacy controls in place. The CNN article appeared to address that very subject with discussion of an “opt-in” system.

Google made the following statement: “As we’ve said for over a year, we won’t add face recognition to Goggles unless we can figure out a strong privacy model for it.  We haven’t figured it out.”

The CNN article was credible because of the “equity” in CNN’s news brand, as well as the level of concrete detail provided and the extensive use of material from an interview with Neven. Others were similarly convinced that Google was about to release mobile facial recognition as part of a Goggles update.

The competitive culture of tech coverage and the race to be first or nearly so can result in errors like this. Admittedly I make them too, as in this instance. I should have checked in to get a statement from Google before publishing my piece. As I said, however, it appeared the article was highly credible. But it now appears it was totally wrong.

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