Facebook using facial recognition to find photos you're not tagged in

Nichole Vega
December 20, 2017

Facebook announced a new optional feature on Tuesday that will alert you of photos posted on the social media platform that you're in, even if no one has tagged you in the photo.

Using facial recognition software, Facebook can detect when you appear in media on its service whether or not you have been tagged. The idea is to give you more control over your identity online by informing you when your face appears in a photo, even those you don't know about. "Our technology analyzes the pixels in photos you're already tagged in and generates a string of numbers we call a template", said Joaquin Quiñonero Candela, Facebook's director of Applied Machine Learning, in the blog post.

The tools also come as former executives have raised concern about how much time we spend on Facebook and what it is doing to our society.

That, at least, is the worst-case scenario for Facebook's latest feature, which automatically notifies you if anyone uploads a photo that looks like you're in it. In fact, that's put Facebook afoul of state laws and using this technology is outright banned in Canada and Europe. You'll be able to find the on/off switch in Settings under Face Recognition, which will disable the notifications.

The features demonstrate how Facebook is using a trove of facial recognition data, a type of data that has become a key focus for tech titans.

Facebook will also notify you when someone else uses a photo of you for a profile picture. Finally, the company is also going to use facial recognition to describe pictures to the visually impaired; someone looking at a photo using a screen-reader can hear which of their friends are in the picture by name. When a new photo or video shows up on Facebook, it is compared to the template to determine who it is. According to Sherman, this option will "completely turn off face recognition technology" for a user's account.

"We are now using various signals (like an IP address) to help us proactively recognize this type of account and prevent its owner from sending a message or friend request to the person who blocked the original account", Antigone Davis, Facebook's global head of safety, wrote in a post .

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