Eyedea—Just Another Pretty Face (Recognition API)?: Implications of a Crowded Marketplace

Czech-based eyedea Recognition has released a face detection API. It joins a list of some 38 in our API directory related to face detection. It's hard to tell how these offerings will stand out from the crowd. (By way of comparison, last October I wrote up Skybiometry.) Once the identity, gender, approximate age, and the ability to count the number of people in a room have been nailed, what else is there?

eyedea does appear to have considerable heft, working on related projects such as vehicle license plate reading, vehicle model identification, and eye motion analysis. That last one enables the disabled to control computers with their eyes. And the company also has an SDK with a shared Library and example projects, and a demo application.

The documentation specifies that, "Photos can be uploaded directly in the API request. A requests that uploads a photo must be formed as a MIME multi-part message sent using POST data. Each argument, including the raw image data, should be specified as a separate chunk of form data." Responses for this RESTful API are in JSON, YAML or XML.

The most interesting aspect of facial recognition may not be the tough question of what business model(s) triumphs in  a crowded space, but how things play out politically. We could be in for a political "about face".  Facial recognition exists in an atmosphere hyper charged over concerns about privacy. Google has blocked its use in apps for Google Glass for this reason. And, as the Daily Show reported in the wake of the Edward Snowden NSA revelations, Good News! You're not paranoid. The point is, there is a cloud over the use of facial recognition because when carried out without the target's knowledge or consent, it violates privacy.

But given the increasing availability of these tools from so many different providers, and no doubt the increasing improvements in their abilities, it's easy to imagine a day when their ubiquity might overrun those concerns. This could yield a surprising sea change in attitudes. Today, we React to facial recognition the way we reacted to the ability to trace phone calls 30 years ago: it was an invasion of privacy if the police could trace a call. Today, that technology is in every cell phone to the point where it feels uncomfortable to answer the phone without knowing at least the number of who is calling. "You have a right to remain anonymous" has been replaced by "you have a right to know who is calling."

Could the same thing happen to facial recognition? Today, we want the right to be anonymous in a crowd. But might the day come when we feel more secure being able to instantly identify strangers? Perhaps we'll even feel protected by the fact that those strangers know that we know who they are. I never answer my phone if I don't know who is calling. Could we get to the point where we leave a room or area if not everyone in it is identified?

Be sure to read the next Security article: Seculert Updates API and Launches Elastic Sandbox