One of the world's largest and most multi-faceted users of facial detection and recognition software is Google.

When a person searches for an image of something like "rice," they might mean the grain or they might be looking for pictures of a person like former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. With a check box on the left column, Google allows people to refine the search to just faces (see above).

The company also uses software to detect faces inadvertently caught by the cameras attached to roving vehicles for Google Maps' Street View product. The software finds faces and blurs them so they can't be recognized.

Google also uses facial recognition software in its Picasa photo organizer and Google social network. Find My Face, a new Google tool, scans users' and their friends' photos for recognizable faces, and suggests nametags for the faces by matching them with users' profile photos and other tagged photos on the social network.

The company also uses facial recognition in the latest version of its Android smartphone operating system as a method of unlocking a phone.

Not everything is ready for prime time. Google chose not to add facial recognition technology to its Google Googles app, which would have allowed people to snap photos of people and search the Web to determine who they are. Google said it was concerned about the privacy implications.

"We've been researching vision technologies for many years, including pattern recognition, facial detection, and facial recognition, and our approach is to treat this very carefully," Benjamin Petrosky, product counsel for Picasa and Google, said at the FTC conference. "We don't want to deploy a technology until it's ready and the appropriate privacy tools are in place."

By David Goldman @CNNMoneyTech - Last updated December 13 2011: 1:55 PM ET
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