Facebook buys face-recognition startup

Social networking giant pays US$55 million to acquire Face.com which face-recognition technology will be tapped to help Facebook users better identify and tag photos.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor on

Facebook has acquired a startup specializing in face-recognition technology in a move to help its users better identify and tag photos uploaded on the social networking site.

Face.com confirmed the sale late-Monday saying, like Facebook, it also regarded mobile as an important platform on which people create, consume and share content. The startup describes its work to focus on enabling "social experience for people in images" and its platform supports both Web and mobile services. "Through our apps and API (application programming interface) services, we scan billions of photos monthly and, to date, helped tag hundreds of millions of faces," the company said.

Its applications include Photo Tagger and Celebrityfindr, which scans Twitter for photos of celebrities posted in public.

No financial details were provided, but a Reuters report estimated the deal to be worth US$55 million to US$60 million in cash and stock, while other reports placed the pricetag at around US$100 million.

News site TechCrunch suggested the acquisition could allow Facebook users to upload photos via their mobile devices and receive suggestions of whom to tag. This would be an important addition as a large proportion of photos uploaded via mobile remained untagged on the social networking site.

The site added these tags would enable Facebook to decipher which users a photo was relevant to, and push relevant news feeds to their friends.

The social networking giant has been bulking up its mobile and image capabilities. In April, it acquired popular image-sharing mobile app, Instagram, for US$1 billion in cash and stock. Talks that Facebook was prepping to launch its own smartphone also resurfaced last month after it hired several former Apple engineers who had worked on the iPhone and iPad devices.

Facebook previously faced criticisms over its photo-tagging functions which observers said breached user privacy and warned could result in undesirable photos of users being circulated online. Last year, the company acknowledged it should have done more to inform users about its photo-tagging feature and later made changes to allow users to block unwanted photos.

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