Content, strategy and creating value in a digital world

The future’s here, and it recognises you

in all the excitement surrounding the launch of Google’s Chrome browser, perhaps you missed the new release of Picasa, which now includes photo recognition.

How it works is pretty simple: Once you have uploaded your photos, you can tag people in the pics, much as you can currently do on facebook.

What takes it up a level, is the fact that google has added facial recognition software into their new release of Picasa, meaning that once you have tagged the same person up in enough pictures, Google will begin to recognise their face on new pictures that you upload, and suggest them as a tag to you.

Then, taking it a step further, you can match up that name with an email address in your gmail address book.

In other words, Google can recognise who the picture is of, and they can link it to other info that google holds on that person (name, email address, and any other personal details that that person may have given to google in the course of, say, opening up a gmail account or using a Google toolbar)

Feeling nervous? I am.

The power of the internet is in the way connections can be made between pieces of information, but the development of the semantic web means that websites and applications are starting to make connections using the actual content of sites or images.

New developments like this utilise user input to assume or create links that would previously have to be explicitly created.

You could look at it as another step towards enabling artificial intelligence, since computers (with a big helping hand from human users) are being guided along the path of understanding the content of pages, rather than simply rendering noughts and ones into something that we can understand.

Make no mistake, this is very powerful, and potentially very useful development.

But do I want pictures of me to be tagged, and matched up to any other personal detail of me that are out there? And even if it’s not explicitly displayed anywhere, am I happy about a google server somewhere out there that now knows what I look like, and can connect that with all my other digital activity?

And all this can happen whether I like it or not – once someone uploads an image of me and tags it, I’m logged in the system. It’s probably happened already.

It makes you wonder whether future generations will look in disbelief at how us credulous early 21st century humans happily posted personal details and intimate secrets about ourselves and our friends and families on the internet. And once we realised what we’d done, it was already far too late…


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