Google Goggles: Cool tool or one step closer to Big Brother?

Google unveiled its latest mobile technology, Google Goggles, which can be used to search photos, barcodes or DVD covers on an Android-based smartphone (although it may be coming to other smartphones soon.) The technology is impressive, and although it doesn't boast a 100% guarantee, its searches are usually relevant.

Goggles is basically an object-recognition system and by taking a photo of something on your smartphone -- either a storefront, the Eiffel Tower, book or even a person -- its visual search technology breaks down the image into object-based signatures, compares them with others in its image database and ranks them for your searching pleasure. So far, Goggles isn't doing well with animals, food, cars or plants but developers say that's only a matter of time.

Soon people will be able to take a photo of a leaf and know a tree's genus and species. Fabulous, right? Well, maybe and maybe not.

Sure, it can be used to comparison shop online and provided its accuracy is high, it may even simplify shipping and receiving. For those of you who long to be spies or stalkers, the latest technology may also be able to help you. Although developers say there's no business use for facial recognition, Goggles still has the capability.

Goggles is still in the beta stage with plenty of bugs (apparently it's only about 50-50 on wine labels) but this new technology should make consumers feel alternately exhilarated and scared. While this technology is amazing and could save on time, what are the real-life ramifications?

Is this fodder for potential stalkers or merely a way to find a good Italian restaurant? Unfortunately, it can be both. Technology moves so quickly that sometimes we don't create and establish ethical standards for it. We have to think past the cool factor and also evaluate the safety and privacy factors.


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