Facebook Fights Google+ on Face Recognition and Business Fronts

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Up against new rivalry from Google+ (Plus), Facebook took steps this week to calm user disenchantment with its facial recognition and to beam a bigger smile toward business members.

While users fretted in online forums about Google’s buyout of face recognition specialist PittPatt, Facebook agreed to run new ads on its members’ home pages. These ads will show how to disable a facial recognition feature already built into Facebook.

As SMBs wondered why they’d been suddenly ousted from Google Plus, Facebook introduced a Web page called “Facebook for Business” which delivers a a step-by-step guide to how businesses can make the most of its social networking site.

Facebook took action about its built-in Tag Suggestions facial recognition technology after being contacted by Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, who is irritated by the controversial, questionably 100 percent accurate capability. Actually, however, security software vendor ZoneAlarm beat Facebook to the punch.

Facebook isn’t the first to say how to get rid of face recognition

In a blog post on July 5, ZoneAlarm ran an educational but entertaining infographic chart entitled “Do You Know That Face? Facebook Does.”

Facebook’s Tag Suggestions “uses face recognition software to suggest people’s names to tag in pictures without their permission,” according to the infographic.

Facebook users voiced their appreciation. “Nice tips! Face recognition is awesome for law enforcement, but privacy issues and concerns are growing all the time,” wrote a user named Chris.

Also in various online forums this week, users expressed alarm that, in light of Facebook’s buyout of PittPatt, similar face recognition technology might get built into Google Plus.

How accurate is face recognition, anyway?

Elsewhere on the Web, facial recognition experts are now weighing in on how accurate facial recognition really is. “Every topic in face recognition is still an open topic because nothing is very reliable yet!” admitted one expert, in the Face Recognition for Facebook Development Team discussion forum in Google Groups.

“Something you might find interesting is trying to determine if someone is young or is old, just based on their facial photo. This is easy for humans but quite difficult for a computer.”

According to another expert in the same forum, face recognition is about 95 percent accurate on “relatively high resolution images where they assume near frontal face and little variation in illumination.”

On the other hand, “Current research is on recognizing faces in low resolutions images, with huge variation in illumination and pose. The ultimate goal of any face recognition system is to recognize faces at least [to the level of] what humans can recognize,” he contended.

Businesses frustrated by Google+

Meanwhile, some SMBs have been voicing a lot of confusion online over Google Plus policies around business memberships. Much like consumers trying to use pseudonyms on Google Plus, legions of businesses of various sizes have gotten abruptly kicked off of the upstart social network in recent weeks.

Google had earlier asked businesses not to join Google Plus quite yet, but to wait instead until the upcoming availability of a special business edition.

Nevertheless, some business users felt shocked and even insulted to receive the following message from Google Plus: “Your profile is suspended. After reviewing your profile, we determined that the name you provided violates our Community Standards. If you believe that your profile has been suspended in error, please provide us with additional information via this form, and we will review your profile again.” 

Responded Adrenalin in the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) group on Black Hat Forum: “Even if they did write about it somewhere, it’s a big fault to punish those who could not see any reason [not] to try it. Google could have marked the profiles as “business,” “pseudonyms,” or similar, [or] even restricted access to the G+ project. Banning/suspension, however, is just wrong. I really see no reason why they should go for that option. They will be [angering] some [of] the best people (and also some of the biggest influencers) of the Internet business doing it this way.”

Google later decided to reinstate the Google Plus accounts of a “tiny” number of businesses, including Ford and Mashable — the fourth most popular site on Google Plus, according to Social Statistics, with 103,000 followers.

Earlier this month, Google also invited some businesses to apply to be beta testers of a forthcoming business feature in Google Plus, giving July 15 as the application deadline. Yet many businesses attempting to sign up reported in forums that they received repeated “busy server, please try again” messages.

“Not sure what it is — and as the servers are eternally busy, guess we won’t be finding out,” wrote one frustrated business user, in the fatwallet.com forum.

Facebook exploits Google+ disgruntlement

The new Facebook for Business page launched this week seems calculated to capitalize on the disgruntlement of businesses turned away by Google Plus.

Facebook’s new Web page includes tips on how to set up a Facebook page for your business, promote your business with ads, create mobile experiences, build Facebook apps, and drive traffic to your site with the aid of “Sponsored Stories,” for example.

 

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