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Google is torn on the topic of face recognition: to roll out, or not?

What would you do?

You're sitting on top of an innovation that would rock the world. This particular invention would change the entire make-up of both the virtual and real worlds -- in fact, it would inexorably merge them together, for better or worse. I am of course talking about face recognition.

Face recognition already exists -- be it to biometrically to open doors, or ostensibly as a security measure in police states like the United Kingdom -- but it doesn't exist as a commodity. It doesn't exist as a technology that you or I can play with. That's what Google's sitting on right now: a face recognition search engine. CEO Eric Schmidt simply has to flip a switch and we'd suddenly be able to upload photos and find out exactly who is in them.

It's a chilling thought which is made a thousand times more calcifying by the fact that it's Google wielding the technology. If it was any other company -- one that doesn't already have access to billions of images all round the world -- we wouldn't bat an eyelid. But because it is Google we have a predicament.

We're at the point where you could snap a person's face with Google Goggles and find out their entire life story: their employment, their friends, what they looked like before they dyed their hair. I don't know where the societal breaking point for pervasive, omnipresent technology is... but I think we're getting close.

Tags: face, face recognition, FaceRecognition, google, innovation, invention, recognition, society, technology