Is Facebook Carving a Path Toward Mainstream Mobile Face Recognition?

Social networking giant Facebook is drawing a hefty combination of praise and criticism in response to it’s development and deployment of facial recognition technology that ostensibly serves only to improve upon the photo tagging experience of Facebook.

But will Facebook’s adoption of this face recognition functionality quickly spread – as many expect and some fear – to smartphones and their mobile operating systems?

From Google to Apple, major names in mobile have all toiled with facial recognition, despite the fact that their work has been largely confined to the laboratory. Still, as CNN reported this morning, computer systems will soon be able to recognize familiar faces, likely in a much more ubiquitous manner than Facebook is presently cultivating.

Google recently decided not to release an application that would let someone snap a picture of a person’s face using a smartphone in order to find out who the subject is, Eric Schmidt, the search giant’s executive chairman and former CEO, said at a conference last week. Schmidt believed it to be the first time Google engineers had completed a project and decided to shutter it for privacy reasons, he said.

On Tuesday, Facebook said that over the next two weeks, the social networking site will begin scanning “all images posted to Facebook and suggest the names of people who appear in the frame.” Drawing ire from some, Facebook says that its 500 million users have already been added to the database. However, Facebook will allow individuals to opt-out if they so choose.

So will face recognition technology prove a boon or a bust for Facebook?

“Face technology will never work in gigantic-large databases,” Ipplex CEO Orang Dialameh tells CNN. But “if you limit the database – say, I’m trying to recognize someone in the 400 contacts that I have on Facebook,” then face scanning might be practical and have some value.