I’ve made a short video talking about Google’s efforts to move into facial search and what some of the implications are for our clients in Seattle or in Los Angeles who might be in need of Reputation Management services.
Google has been slowly gobbling up companies offering image recognition software and has been building up its patent protections around image search technology, especially as it applies to social networking and social media. Google Goggles, a mobile application, already exists and allows users to search for information on an image captured with the application. Now the technology is going one step further- facial search.
Facial search would be a big step forward in some regards for Google’s search product offerings. Already they have a significant market share on search users and search advertising so its no big surprise that they might want to strengthen their product lineup. Facial search would give them a unique functional upgrade over other major social networks like Facebook, and Twitter, and would help to expand on their own burgeoning efforts to make a social splash.
But what does facial search mean to the end user and how does it apply to our service expertise of reputation management?
Facial search offers some very big advantages and some very big privacy concerns if you think about it. IF someone has an image of you they could simply upload that image and then conduct a search based on it. Google would create search results based on similarities its software sees in facial structure and other identifying features and would return with a list of recommendations. The big fear here is that you don’t necessarily have control over all of those images and you don’t necessarily want someone to easily find all the images associated with you through various activities you may have participated in throughout your life.
You’re in your thirties now, have a successful ecommerce website, and are looking to raise capital and investors, BUT that old photo of you at a frat party in college that was posted on a school newspaper site now populates in your search results when they do a face search for you. Yikes! Perhaps it doesn’t feature prominently, but the fact that Google could find these images should raise some concerns. Because most of these images will be tied to further data about you, someone could grab a snapshot off of your web page, run a facial search, find out where you live, where you work, the type of activities you’re involved in, and find others who associated with you. That could mean some major liability issues for you! Before, someone had to have some information about you to really conduct a meaningful search. They needed to know your first and last name, general place of residence, and maybe what type of occupation you had to narrow it down. By and large, this meant that people searching for you already knew you or knew of you. Now, not so much.
For reputation management purposes, we have to approach a facial search the same way that we would approach any other search engine optimization (SEO) project or RM campaign. Our job is to ensure that all of the images that feature prominently for you contain controlled content that you want seen, rather then content you don’t want to be associated with. This means that if someone does pull a facial search on you, we want your name coming up, details you want published featured, and other items buried. Because this technology functions on an analysis of facial identifiers, we might need to use pictures that involve specific facial positioning, expressions, etc, and then build up image tags and descriptions around them.
Undoubtedly, it will expand how we identify and experience search. But with websites already conveying so much information about you, who knows if this added experience is positive.