Tuesday, 3 July, 2007

Beyond Images: universal facial recognition accross the internet

Polarrose is a swedish startup company which promises to allow the user to identify a face from all the photographs distributed over the internet.

This means that you would have to just give the photograph of the person you want to find and polarrose will give you all the photographs of the person, distributed all over the internet.

Imagine what would happen when you give your own photograph and find out a lot more about yourself distributed around the internet :D.

This has already stirred a huge privacy debate when the The Harvard Law Review, a journal for legal scholarship, recently published a short piece on the privacy implications of such online photo-tagging. See the slashdot thread for more.

PolarRose, however, believes that they are as harmful to the photo web, as Google and Yahoo! (& others) have been to the text web. By sorting the text web, these search engines exposed the wonderful resource of public documents that web had already become.
Polar Rose adds tremendous value to the photo web.
Hundreds of millions of photos that are screaming to be sorted, viewed, and searched are not being so because no one took the time – or had a facility like Flickr or otherphoto-sharing sites – to add descriptions, names, or tags.
We want to sort this photo web to make each photo more valuable to the viewer, but also to the person who shot it.
Tell the story, make it discoverable.
And for those of you who are privacy maniacs, here's more:

We’ll end up finding photos that the published never really thought of as being public. The trick, however, is not to turn off the technology, just like Altavista or any of the subsequent search engines weren’t shut down or otherwise censored. The challenge is to facilitate a way to make sure that photos that shouldn’t be in our database, aren’t. This can be by restricting access or by telling us not to pick them up.

  • We don’t index private photos; photos behind a firewall, login, or on a user’s desktop computer. (We’ll do some partnerships where private photos will be indexed, but thus only for the individual user’s viewing)
  • We honor robots.txt and subsequent requests by a site owner to remove photos from our database.
  • We’ll never engage Polar Rose in the application of the technology in security or surveillance. It’s explicitly stated in the contracts we enter with partners.
My take:
I feel every new technology faces some opposition and resistance before any stage of acceptance.
Take Google for example..There were points in its history when people were convinced enough to fight for Google's shutdown simply because they believed the entirety of web should not be publicly accessible!
(Of course, they didn't bother to keep private articles off the web or behind a firewall! No, they want security by obscurity rather than true security and I think this basically reflects the foolish mindset of those people. It also reflects how any new innovation requires a change in mindset to be viewed in true perspective.)

I think Polar Rose is doing a wonderful job and Id like to see the concept extend beyond faces to any recognizable object. And not only Images, videos as well. Imagine searching videos not on basis of tags or names or descriptions; but on content! That would be truly revolutionary.

I know Google is doing something in this regard (read something about their research on pictoral descriptors for indexing images...but cant seem to recollect where I found It - The web is huge entangled Jungle, with Google right in the very dense heart of it! Ill add in that article when I find it).

Any comments/more info is more than welcome...