Hockey stick

Tara Hunt, marketer of the future, says on her blog that Riya, the much-blogged-about (thanks to her) photo face-recognition service, got one million photos uploaded in two days.

  • We need to be a little cautious of Riya’s goal of applying their facial recognition software to “every digital photo in the world”. As I noted here, Riya aims to create a vast database of facial recognition profiles. Sure, it would be great if I could easily search for pictures of me or my friends on the web, but do I want others to be able to do that as well? Could this provide a useful tool for stalkers looking for a particular person? Abusive partners trying to track down their victim? (Note that Riya also uploads and indexes all the metadata related to your photos, including the date and time is was taken, when it was uploaded, etc. Users can also tag and search photos based on location – GPS data from cellphone cameras probably isn’t that far away either).

    I don’t want to be alarmist, but there are externalities once all of the images of our daily lives (and their related metadata) are uploaded to the Internet, indexed, searchable, and accessible to all.

  • Lone Ranger

    “once all of the images of our daily lives (and their related metadata) are uploaded to the Internet, indexed, searchable, and accessible to all.” People will start wearing masks. See you in Lone Ranger Nation.

  • qcontent

    Just what we DO NOT need. I wonder who is really funding and supporting her activites? And, why?

  • LOL…whoah…um…although I totally hear you on the privacy issue, I should make a few things clear.

    @qcontent – I can 100% guarantee that I am not being funded by any nefarious agencies or the like. Munjal, the co-founder and guy behind this idea is trying to solve a personal point of pain (30,000+ photographs where he couldn’t find anything) and I’ve checked him out thoroughly ;)

    @Michael Z. – you are right…you training Riya to recognize people in your photographs creates specific digital signatures…but really, these signatures only reside in your account (unless you choose to share them with contacts on Riya, then you share the digital signatures with only those people).

    The software isn’t nearly powerful enough to create universal digital signatures. Yes, that would be frightening…and we never aim to do this specific thing. For one, facial recognition is an incredibly hard issue to solve. There are oodles of people who look similar in the world who pose in various different ways. The amount of mistakes Riya would make would make it impossible to find anyone anyway.

    Government security computer vision is done in very controlled environments. When we get our passport photos taken, there are certain conditions they require us to meet: lighting, straight-on pose, no glasses, no smiling, etc. The cameras they use at airports are placed to meet the same conditions. Everyday photographs rarely, if ever, produce these pristine conditions.

    The metadata collected (ie. time stamp, etc.) is pretty standard for photo storage/sharing sites that many already use. i.e. Flickr, Ofoto, Picasa, Shutterfly, even Google images…it’s pretty standard to use the jpg EXIF data. Being a photo search company, we see this as useful information.

    Of course, this level of transparency is not for everyone. I, personally, recognize this. I can understand how scary the technology sounds. When I first heard about it, I thought, “Whoah, CSI!”

    Basically, the thought was behind using face and text recognition to automatically tag the photos is that, instead of searching around photos like Google and Yahoo! image search does, we wanted to search inside photos to produce better results.

    The catch-22 is, of course, that the face recognition works best on personal photographs…you may want to find them, but you certainly don’t want strangers to.

    Because I highly doubt that we will just abandon the project (obviously there are many who are more excited by the possibility of searching photos smarter than they are concerned about national security), what we need now are suggestions from concerned people like yourselves on how to implement security measures. We are also chatting with the EFF coming up to try and figure out ways to balance security with usability.

    I would love your further comments/suggestions on this. Feel free to email me personally at tara at riya dot com.

  • I always find all this hoo-ha over “markets as conversations” to be kind of funny.

    After I came back from BlogOn in October, all I could keep thinking was how so many marketers needed to take a year off from looking at charts and spend it in a high-end department store or small retailer where cultivating customers as friends was still the way to successfully market.

    It’s the way car sales works, the way computer sales used to work, and the way that music sales at small stores still works. Any retail outlet that is not dominated and spun by a corporate entity functions that way. It has to for its survival.

    So, having conversations and making friends with customers is an old-fashioned retail game that got out of vogue because of number cruchers. Now number-cruchers and stats-interpreters are sitting around saying that it’s all about conversations?? How ironic. Successful sales (which is successful marketing) has always and traditionally been about creating relationships of affinity.

    Is it really so hard to understand that to create brand loyalty among customers is to create brand loyalty among the sales staff? That’s simple common sense.

    It’s not new, it’s not “pinko”–it’s old as the hills and how successful sales and marketing has always occurred.

  • (the above comment is in ref to the “marketer of the future” idea…) As for photo-face recognition….kinda scary.