Facebook Agrees to Buy Face-Recognizing Face.com
Facebook has a new Face -- and it can recognize yours. On Monday, the social networking giant announced that it had agreed to acquire Face.com, which provides the face-recognition technology used by Facebook.

The terms of the deal, which had been rumored since May, were not announced. Unconfirmed press reports speculated that the pricetag was between US$ 80 and US$ 100 million, although recent reports indicate that the final amount may have been significantly less.

300 Million Photos Daily

Face.com’s technology analyzes uploaded photos, compares them to existing, identified photos, and after matching faces, suggests a name for the uploading user to tag. The software to scan and compare those images needs industrial strength, since an estimated 300 million photos, on average, are uploaded to Facebook every day.

While popular among users, the technology has raised questions by privacy watchdogs in the U.S. and Europe. In response to the concerns, Facebook in 2010 made it easier for users to opt-out of the face recognition process.

In an email statement sent Monday to news media, Facebook spokeswoman Ashley Zandy said that Face.com’s technology has helped “to provide the best photo experience” for Facebook users. She added that “this transaction simply brings a world-class team and a longtime technology vendor in house.”

The Face.com acquisition is the latest in a string of recent purchases by Facebook to add features and technology staff. Within the last few months, the company has agreed to buy the location-based app provider Glancee, the social gifting service Karma and popular photo-sharing site Instagram.

Face.Com Says Developers Still Supported

Based in San Francisco and Tel Aviv and founded in 2007, Face.com’s investors include the most popular Russian search engine, Yandex. Its first product was launched in 2009, and its staff numbers less than a dozen.

Learning Opportunities

In addition to providing the embedded technology used on Facebook, Face.com offers standalone face-recognition apps and an application programming interface. The API enables its technology to be integrated into third-party apps, such as CelebrityFindr, which locates celebrity photos on Twitter.

The two companies said that Face.com will continue to provide tools and support for outside developers. On the Face.com blog, the company wrote that “lots of developers use Face.com technology to power various apps and make wonderful products,” adding that “the plan is to continue to support our developer community.”