How Google's Neven Vision could track our lives

Stephen Baker

Could Google's purchase of Neven Vision could lead to a vast people-tracking system? With technology that recognizes faces, imagine a search for the image of you. It could plow through yearbooks, through the photos on social networking sites, through Flickr. If it could actually distinguish your face from all the different angles, and with different lighting, one search could put together a timeline of your movements. It could also establish the people you hang around with--your social network.

Take this one step further. If the photos from the fast-growing network of security cameras were ever added to the stream, this facial-recognition could follow our lives, virtually step by step. From my interviews with mathematicians, I'm told that facial recognition is still at a fairly primitive state. Current systems work far better with straight-forward mug shots than with the helter skelter shots of our lives. Still, as this technology matures, it promises to change everything from Internet search and the hunt for terrorists to our most basic concept of privacy.

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