Why should cops have all the fun? Mugr, which went into private beta yesterday, aims to bring face-recognition software to the masses. Its “face-based” search engine, deployed through its own social-networking site and offered to other social networks and applications through an API, connects images of people’s faces to information about their identities. So if you’re at a bar, say, and you see someone you’d like to find out more about, you can whip out your cameraphone, snap a picture, upload the shot to Mugr, and get a message back telling you who the person is.
Mugr notes that “face recognition, particularly face recognition that can be carried out over the web or with a cameraphone, invites immediate questions of privacy.” But the company has an immediate answer: “the technology that powers mugr.com is not so terribly different as that possessed by many governments and law enforcement agencies. As such, there is no reason that the public should not have the ability to do what it will with such technology. In the end, the technology at mugr.com is only frightening if its users make it so.” Kind of like assault rifles, I guess.
From a quick look at the site, Mugr has a long way to go before it’s prime-time-ready. But the concept seems inevitable. As cheap computing power, massive databases, and our seemingly unquenchable desire to publicize ourselves converge on the net, face- and voice-recognition programs will become routine tools for social networking. Mugshots wiil no longer be limited to criminals and celebrities. Everyone will get one.