Exclusive interview with Gil Hirsch, Face.com’s CEO
Remember all the technology in movies such as Minority Report? At the time, it seemed so bizarre and futuristic, but some of it is beginning to seep into society. I’m talking about the phenomenon of facial recognition.
What do you think of facial recognition? Do you find it amazing or frightening? Let us know.
A handful of companies, including Face.com, is bringing this exciting concept to everyone. Gil Hirsch, Face.com’s CEO, spoke with WebProNews and told us that people are becoming increasingly captivated with data and how it relates to other people they know.
“People are interested to harvest as much information they can from photos and videos… to connect with other people,” he said.
“It’s [Face.com] just another platform to connect with other people,” he added.
Face.com powers the popular Photo Finder and Photo Tagger Facebook apps. It also sends alerts to Facebook users if it thinks a picture or video of him or her may have been uploaded.
Hirsch believes the service enables a “deeper value of connecting,” and said it continually makes improvements. For instance, the Israel-based company recently updated its API and added several attributes. Not only can the company read faces, but now, it can also detect a subject’s age, gender, and even mood.
According to Hirsch, they play around with a lot of different attributes based on what users want to learn. With the recent improvements, Face.com can detect a person’s minimum age, maximum age, estimated age, and the confidence level of its estimations. It can also detect what the gender is and make an assumption about the mood of the person.
The news of the improvements have been widely publicized, but most of the headlines have focused on the fact that fake ID’s would be much harder to use with this new development. Although it’s true, Hirsch told us that this was not the company’s intention.
“We are not looking for security or surveillance-type of applications,” he said.
However, society continues to associate facial recognition with security purposes or in relation to spying on people. As a result, a lot of people are freaked out by it. Hirsch, in part, blames Hollywood for this association.
“Hollywood only presented face recognition as this one-trick pony… that you can only do surveillance and follow up on people,” he explained. “We’re trying to do something very different.”
The International Biometrics and Identification Association (IBIA) raised some red flags about the concept in a recent report. According to the organization, facial recognition applications “must be deployed with utmost sensitivity to the privacy of the consumer and the general public.” It also calls for self-regulatory measures for the industry.
Hirsch told us that it takes privacy very seriously and is trying to change the perception that facial recognition is directly related to surveillance. Face.com, along with Google, Facebook, and other companies, recently presented their work to the FTC to show that they care about user privacy.
For Face.com, specifically, the API is restrictive. There is a limit to the number of images that are processed, and the recognition is limited to only the people you know. In other words, a person can’t simply point a camera to anyone on the street and see who they are.
“We’re looking for value-added services – stuff that makes people feel good about the service, not bad,” said Hirsch.
He went on to say that Face.com already enforces self-regulation since it is focused on the end user experience. He also said that it would “make sense” to have a industry standard to not only ensure that users are protected, but to also change the negative perception that is often equated with facial recognition.