The Many Faces of Facebook: World’s Largest Social Network Purchases

Facial Recognition Startup Company

By N M Lorde

Facial recognition will soon become a lot easier for the nearly one billion users of the world’s largest social network.

Facebook has purchased Face.com, a five-year-old Israeli startup that specializes in facial recognition technology. The announcement was made on Face.com’s blog on Monday, just weeks after speculation of a merger.

Although no official numbers have been released, it is estimated Facebook paid between $55 – $60 million in cash and stock for the startup company, which currently houses eleven employees and is located in the heart of Tel Aviv.

“Our mission is and has always been to find new and exciting ways to make face recognition a fun, engaging part of people’s lives, and incorporate remarkable technology into everyday consumer products,” wrote Face.com founder Gil Hirsh in a blog announcement on the company’s website. “If you’re anything like us, Facebook is a part of your life every single day. We keep up with our friends and family, share interesting (or mundane) experiences from our daily lives, and perhaps most importantly for us, we share a LOT of photos.”

Face.com already provides software to Facebook, allowing users to identify and auto-tag photos of friends, even if the photo is of poor quality.

The company specializes in mobile photo technology. The software scans photos Facebook users upload and suggests the names of friends who appear in newly-uploaded photos.

This idea of self-tagging mobile photos raises concerns about privacy issues, although the technology should only allow Facebook users to tag images of their friends, without revealing the identity of users unless they were already friends with them on the network.

For example – if you were to secretly snap a photo of an unidentified girl at the local grocery store and upload it to Facebook, the facial recognition software shouldn’t reveal her identity unless she is currently on your friend list. Facebook gives users the ability to opt-out of the “Suggest photos of me to friends” feature.

For Face.com, the acquisition will allow them to build more products that can be helpful to users.

“We love building products, and like our friends at Facebook, we think that mobile is a critical part of people’s lives as they both create and consume content, and share content with their social graph,” wrote
Hirsh in the blog announcement. “By working with Facebook directly, and joining their team, we’ll have more opportunities to build amazing products that will be employed by consumers – that’s all we’ve ever
wanted to do.”

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