Google warns against facial recognition database
Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt has warned Governments against ‘foolish’ legislation – and said facial recognition is too creepy even for Google
Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, has said that the search giant would not build a database capable of recognising individual faces even though it is increasingly possible.
Mr Schmidt, speaking at Google’s ‘Big Tent’ conference on internet privacy, said that the rapid development of facial recognition technology has been one of the things that has surprised him most in a long career as a computer scientist.
Such “surprising accuracy” was, however, he said, “very concerning”.
Asked a question about coining the phrase “crossing the creepy line” to describe an aspect of how Google thinks about privacy, Mr Schmidt indicated that, for him, a database utilising facial recognition advances was “unlikely” to be a service that Google would create. He suggested “some company by the way is going to cross that line”.
Mr Schmidt, however, warned regulators and legislators against trying to prevent worrying services in such a way that may stifle innovation.
“Hopefully the French or any other country won’t pass laws that are so foolish they force Google to not be able to operate in those countries,” he said referring to a French law requiring internet companies to retain unencrypted passwords for a year.
“Well-meaning people in government write something which is pretty broad and you have to be careful when you do this kind of regulation,” Mr Scmidt said in answer to a related question.
“You might affect something and have an unintended consequence. So that is what we are always concerned about.”
Google has already created a service called Dashboard, which permits users to see and delete all the information Google holds on them.
Mr Schmidt said that he hoped to make such utilities more friendly, and that there were several projects working on making the legalistic terms and conditions for services easier for users to interpret.
Asked about the recent spat between Facebook and Google, in which Facebook hired PR firm Burson-Marsteller to anonymously brief against Google, Mr Schmidt said he had read the coverage but that reporters should “ask Facebook about Facebook”.
He added, however, that Google would not be likely to do anything similar and had never undertaken such a PR project.