Apple has patented a new photo-sharing system based on facial recognition. The patent has just been published by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Essentially, the patented system uses facial recognition technology to identify the individuals in a photo taken on a mobile device, and facilitates the sharing of that photo with the tagged individuals based on their connected contact information. In other words, a user would take a photo of some friends and then be automatically prompted to share the photo with the friends identified via the biometric system. The patent detailed scenarios in which communication options would be selected by the primary user and in which the photos are automatically shared with tagged individuals who have opted in for such a feature.
While the utility of such a system to the user is obvious, the patent comes at a time when similar systems have come under intense legal scrutiny. Facebook is currently facing class action lawsuits over its automatic face-tagging features (also based on facial recognition technology, of course) and has gone so far as to keep the feature out of Europe for fear of violating the region’s strict privacy rights; and photo-sharing service Shutterfly has been dealing with similar legal action. Of course, in the case of this new Apple system, right now it’s only a patent; whether the company is prepared to go ahead and launch such a system may depend on how these other companies’ lawsuits turn out. Additionally, the opt-in feature mentioned may protect the company from such controversy once this photo-tagging tech is deployed.