Facebook has announced plans to buy the face recognition site Face.com, along with its free mobile app,Klik, which recognizes friends in photos to make tagging on Facebook easier. The acquisition means this feature could be added to Facebook’s mobile app or to the site itself, with possible Instagram integration.
Facebook announced Monday that it will acquire facial recognition firm Face.com, an Israeli company that has worked with the social network for nearly two years to identify and tag people in uploaded photos.
Integrating Face.com's facial recognition capabilities into Facebook marks an effort to encourage even more photo sharing on the social network and, further down the road, could yield new advertising opportunities or even features that bring facial recognition to the physical world, experts say. That extra convenience, tagging photos based on friends' faces, whether on a smartphone or laptop, is also likely to bring a fresh round of privacy concerns over the limits of Facebook's reach into its users' lives.
"Today, facial recognition for Facebook is about photographs. But future uses of this technology could absolutely extend to recognizing people in the real world," said Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps. "Facebook is becoming a search engine for people. It's building a catalog of humans, and today that’s a two dimensional experience. Tomorrow it will take place in the physical world."
Facebook declined to specify how it will integrate Face.com's team and technology into its offerings. A spokeswoman for the social network told The Huffington Post in an email, “People who use Facebook enjoy sharing photos and memories with their friends, and Face.com’s technology has helped to provide the best photo experience. This transaction simply brings a world-class team and a long-time technology vendor in house.”
Face.com's technology, which has been available to Facebook members since 2010, enhances the social network's core strength: photos. Face.com's facial recognition tools spare users the trouble of manually tagging friends in each image they upload, and instead scans the faces of people in photos to suggest names.
For Facebook, an uploaded photograph is good, but an uploaded photograph that's been tagged is even better: It's more likely to be seen by a greater number of people, and in turn helps Facebook provide the up-to-the-minute personal information that keeps users returning to the site. The visibility of photos depends on a user's privacy settings, but generally speaking, if my friend Jason uploads a photo of me and doesn't tag me in it, only Jason's friends will be able to see the image. On the other hand, if Jason tags me in the picture, friends of mine who don't know Jason will see the image of me in their News Feed.