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Facebook Buys Face.com: At What Privacy Cost?

Face.com's facial recognition technology will give Facebook users quicker and easier photo tagging abilities, but privacy concerns come along for the ride.

10 Social Acquisitions Signify Bigger Trends
10 Social Acquisitions Signify Bigger Trends
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Tagging photos on Facebook may get easier now that the social networking company has purchased facial recognition company Face.com.

According to TechCrunch, Facebook is paying between $55 million and $60 million, in a mix of cash and stock, for the like-named startup. (The acquisition price was originally thought to be $100 million.) The acquisition lines up nicely--if not quite as expensively--with Facebook's $1 billion purchase of mobile photo-sharing app Instagram, as well as with its announcement of the Facebook Camera app.

Face.com's facial recognition technology can identify faces even when conditions are poor, such as when lighting is low. Using the company's REST-based API, developers can build apps based on the technology.

It would appear from a blog on Face.com's site that support for the developer community will continue. "Now, lots of developers use Face.com technology to power various apps and make wonderful products," said Face.com CEO Gil Hirsch in a Monday post. "We love you guys, and the plan is to continue to support our developer community. If there are new developments you can expect to hear from us here, on the developer blog, and through our developer newsletter."

The comments on Hirsch's post reference several apps built using Face.com technology and reflect hope that Face.com will continue its "special relationship with developers." (One commenter posits that Facebook is actually buying the like-named Face for another reason: "You know the only reason they bought this site is cause of misdirected traffic.")

[ Get the latest news on social business. See our special report: Enterprise 2.0 Boston 2012. ]

In a statement, Facebook said, "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."

The acquisition will no doubt make it easier for Facebook users to identify people in photos and video, especially on mobile devices. Businesses may benefit by being able to more quickly and easily monitor how, when, and where their products are being talked about and promoted, especially with the rise of social sharing sites like Pinterest.

But photo tagging--especially as it becomes easier to do--also brings up huge privacy concerns. Facebook's page on photo tagging provides advice to users on how to limit or eliminate visibility of photos they are tagged in, as well as on how to remove tags, but the process can quickly become complicated and hard to keep up with. Businesses must take care to ensure that increased use of tagging does not result in increased privacy concerns for customers.

Follow Deb Donston-Miller at @debdonston.

New apps promise to inject social features across entire workflows, raising new problems for IT. In the new, all-digital Social Networking issue of InformationWeek, find out how companies are making social networking part of the way their employees work. Also in this issue: How to better manage your video data. (Free with registration.)

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Deb Donston-Miller
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Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/22/2012 | 2:50:16 AM
re: Facebook Buys Face.com: At What Privacy Cost?
These comments are really interesting, and I appreciate the different perspectives. It does seem, anecdotally, that Facebook HAS changed. Personally, I get far fewer updates and comments from actual friends and far more promotions from companies I've liked. Is that because I have "liked" too many things? Are my friends sick of my posts? Or are people pulling back from Facebook because it is changing and is no longer what they "signed up for"?

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
ANON1237925156805
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ANON1237925156805,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/20/2012 | 3:23:02 PM
re: Facebook Buys Face.com: At What Privacy Cost?
Facebook is sliding down a slippery slope especially since now as a publicly traded company they MUST effectively monetize their data. At the same time Facebook is losing its cool factor. No longer rebels, they are now the ruling class to be rebelled against. Growth rate is starting to flatten a bit among the younger people who originally made Facebook a success.

If membership flatlines or drops, that will put even more pressure on them to wrest every nickel from the members they have. Not exactly a virtuous cycle.

Eventually, perhaps sooner than later, the wise will drop Facebook like a hot potato and move on to the next exurbia. Stay tuned to see what that is.
robthom
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robthom,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/20/2012 | 9:20:16 AM
re: Facebook Buys Face.com: At What Privacy Cost?
Oh its still fun.

Its like watching lemmings jumping off a cliff.
robthom
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robthom,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/20/2012 | 9:18:16 AM
re: Facebook Buys Face.com: At What Privacy Cost?
"dont be paranoid... I understand that government tracking is often abused, but its just a fact of life..."

Translation:

Dont be paranoid, they're doing exactly what you think they're doing.

But there's nothing you can do about it, so just submit your soul and drink the koolaid like me.

Hopefully we can figure out exactly who "zerohedges" is, so that when we break the chains it can be cauterized from decent people.
robthom
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robthom,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/20/2012 | 9:10:15 AM
re: Facebook Buys Face.com: At What Privacy Cost?
I think its great!

Anybody still using facebook deserves it
JunesungLee
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JunesungLee,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/20/2012 | 2:01:40 AM
re: Facebook Buys Face.com: At What Privacy Cost?
I use sgrouples now since theres no issues of privacy or data concerns at all there
AustinIT
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AustinIT,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/19/2012 | 7:53:07 PM
re: Facebook Buys Face.com: At What Privacy Cost?
Spielberg's "Minority Report" comes to mind...
ZeroHedges
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ZeroHedges,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/19/2012 | 3:27:27 PM
re: Facebook Buys Face.com: At What Privacy Cost?
dont be paranoid. the tracking and identification is privatized, and it will continue for anyone that wants to participate in society. I understand that government tracking is often abused, but its just a fact of life that internet enabled cell phones, tablets, even cars, will be able to identify the people around them and broadcast that information and share that information. it is the way of the future. but, you are always welcome to drop off the grid to protect your privacy. I'm just saying that you may have to move to a ranch in afghanistan if you want to stay off the grid.
L T
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L T,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/19/2012 | 2:48:32 PM
re: Facebook Buys Face.com: At What Privacy Cost?
facial recognition is a big negative. one has to consider where the technology is going.
facebook is just getting creepier & creepier. myself i deleted my account months ago & so did many of my frends. why? exactly cause of things like this article describe. we do not want to be constantly tracked, stalked & identified. it ceased to be fun long ago.
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