Riya – cool service or new threat to privacy?


Amber MacArthur and Leo Laporte, the “Inside the Net” team did a podcast on a start-up called Riya last week that raised some good questions regarding online privacy and that thin line we sometimes cross too easily.  Riya, of you don’t know already, enables better contextual facial recognition inside photos so you could find photos on the Web that have people you have trained it to find, in them.  It goes beyond searching for photos based on file names and tags applied to the images and actually takes a look inside the photos themselves.  Riya has been receiving quite a bit of attention in the news lately because, let’s face it (please excuse the pun), this technology is great.

There is one small hitch though.  Widespread use of this technology could lead to massive privacy violations.  Riya enables people to train it to identify people in photos using facial features and certain contextual factors so that you could one day search for all photos with you and your partner at a party, for example.  The concern is the service being used by stalkers or other nasty people who may be able to tie your photos to your identity to all the other information about you on the Web with the end result being a particularly nasty visit.

Generally speaking, though, I think this is a cool service and tied into Flickr, it could prove to be a very cool add-on!

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