Why Google Decided to Offer Face Search by Using Pictures From Social Networks


To be fair, Google hasn’t yet decided to do this – it’s merely put forward a patent application for a system that might be capable of doing a face search. So what’s the point – and what does it mean for the SEO company?

Ostensibly the point of face searching is to enable “next generation” type searches – that is, web searches started by something other than typing a query into a search bar. The face search would presumably be commenced by someone using their mobile device to take a photo. You take your pick and upload it into Google, which then identifies the items in the image (in this case the faces), pulling up their social media information perhaps.

Obviously this raises some privacy concerns, which even the most established evangelist for social media can hardly ignore. If someone can take your picture and interrogate the web to find out anything on the web about you, it removes the element of exclusivity commonly inherent in social media activity, doesn’t it?

Well that depends on how the social media information of the person identified is displayed to the searcher. Ultimately Facebook (for example) won’t let you look at the information of any user who has set their profile to private. So you would presumably be able to see the person’s stub entry but no more.

Even here though, as any SEO company will point out, there’s more personal information getting out to people who’ve taken your photo than perhaps there should be. Your name, for example, and where you live.

When you know someone’s name and probable location you can find their stub on Facebook with ease. But that’s not the same as just seeing someone you don’t know in the street and finding out who they are because you took a photo of them.

An SEO company knows just how much value your social media information has to advertisers and people who build websites. There’s a lot of theoretically powerful potential behind the idea of face searching for these people.

If someone searches for your face, they can theoretically use a range of indicators to find out where you are right now – in the manner of a spy film, almost. For example, if you have a smart phone it is normally GPS locatable – so a face search bringing a positive match for ID can simply find out what mobile device is registered to that ID, and return an exact positioning report.

This kind of technology is already used to deliver location specific promotions – for example a two for one meal deal at a local restaurant. Your SEO company is already on the case in these instances, creating location-specific optimization programs designed to catch traffic who search using local keywords.

It’s hard to see immediately how the SEO company will rise to the challenge (if it happens) of face searches. Perhaps if one searcher locates another in the same area, there’s an optimization avenue open to sending social media alerts about bars and other meeting places nearby…?



  1. Adeline March 29, 2012
  2. Bethany April 4, 2012

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