Killer App Of The Century On Hold

The killer app of the century is facing a snag or two.

The killer app of the century is facing a snag or two.

The ability to hold up a smartphone camera to a face in the street or a room or a crowd and have the device recognise that face and give the biographical details associated with it, is the K A of the C.

In June, Facebook, owner of the largest repository of peoples’ photos on the planet, bought, an Israeli firm with face recognition software.

The great killer app looked to be on the way. In fact a limited version was in use on Facebook.

But now Facebook has been ordered by the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, Billy Hawkes, to turn off its face recognition feature.

However Facebook intends the disabling of the face recognition tool to be only temporary.

“Our intention is to reinstate the tag-suggest feature, but consistent with new guidelines,'” says Facebook’s EMEA director of policy Richard Allan.

Somehow, one doesn’t think that Facebook is too scared of the Irish Data Protection Commission, especially when Facebook’s European HQ is in Ireland to take advantage of Ireland’s 12.5% corporation tax rate.

Would Ireland stand up for the human race’s right to privacy if it came to losing the tax take on Facebook?

No one knows. But if Irish sinews need stiffening, other countries are there to help.

The Norwegian data protection regulator is working with the Irish regulator, while the German regulator says he’s waiting for the Irish to report before Germany resumes its investigations.

The EC’s Article 29 Data Protection Working Party has ruled that: “Once consent is withdrawn, processing for the purposes of facial recognition should stop immediately.”



  1. I agree with Dr Bob.
    Sounds like a charter for the hoodies.

  2. Get over to and search for “killer app” strips!

  3. Absolutely Anonymous, they’ll say “Oh look that’s Anon Anonymous from Anonymous Hall walking down the street let’s go and burgle his house while he’s out.”

  4. Burglars are going to love this feature aren’t they?

  5. There are some areas in the world where this is not going to work, especially amongst the female population.

  6. Hanky-panky is going to get a lot more tricky, Stoorieft, but I don’t think that will stop anyone.

  7. It opens a massive can of worms, cheese, but as it’s possible it’s pretty certain that the can will be opened.

  8. It is in fact pretty horrendous, cheese, because with all these cameras around you’re going to be automatically recognised and bombarded with advertising messages wherever you go. Imagine walking down Jermyn Street and getting bombarded with messages saying ‘pop in for a bit of ac-dc’ or whatever.

  9. Well, I guess the real KAC would go a step further.
    I’d expect the KAC to combine face recognition with augmented reality (as in Google Glass – to superimpose the details of the person who you are seeing on that same person, just like subtitles in a movie. And then up pops an app to help you plan a date, send a gift, check what this person’s spouse is up to or try other such “social” stuff. You could probably root your glass to get apps that are not so “social” at all..

  10. It is a nice twist on the idea that someone taking your photograph steals part of your soul.
    “Once consent is withdrawn, processing for the purposes of facial recognition should stop immediately.” – is that really going to stop the crooked web scrapers from doing this? Even if legitimate businesses like Facebook can’t apply this technique, there are a bunch of nefarious groups who will.
    Certainly as Prince Billy & his missus are finding out, once your picture has been taken in the digital age there is no recovering the lost privacy.

  11. SecretEuroPatentAgentMan

    I don’t quite buy into this vision. rather a Looxcie-like device, permanently attached and looking forward doing continuous facial recognition, is more what I would have expected.
    This does of course look quite a bit like the gargoyle mode in Neal Stephenson’s book Snow Crash. In this book CIA was privatised. When will Facebook buy

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