Social networking site Facebook has revealed that it is now using facial recognition technology to find more images of its users, including images the user doesn’t know exists.
Facebook will now notify users when its algorithms believe it has spotted you in a photograph or video that they have yet to be tagged in. In order to do this, the site has said that its facial recognition software will compare the pixels within images to users’ profiles images, header images and tagged pictures and videos.
Furthermore, Facebook’s plan for facial recognition is not to just tag users in photos they haven’t been tagged in yet; it is part of a security plan that will stop people from uploading content without that user’s permission, which can help to stop the creation of duplicate or fake accounts claiming to be a certain user. This is known as ‘catfishing’.
The site will not be looking to tag every user at every possible opportunity; these will appear as tag suggestions and will only apply to posts and pictures for which the user is part of the target audience. Facebook says that it will still respect the privacy settings that people select when uploading content to the site, so users will not receive notifications if they are not part of this target audience. This means users will not get notified if their face appears in a photo from another user if their settings are private.
It is not yet clear if the facial recognition system will scan every single picture uploaded to the site searching for particular users. The social network added facial recognition to its platform to help describe pictures to visually impaired users in order to be able to provide them with better descriptions, and enhance their user experience.
While the technology and reasoning behind the systems sound impressive, it has already raised concerns in terms of data protection across the EU, with laws in place prohibiting sensitive, personal data from being processed without explicit permission. This could see the update not making it to EU countries, which includes the UK at the moment.
In order to quash these fears and concerns, Facebook has said that it is possible to turn off the setting that sees the site scanning every nook and cranny of the site for a user’s picture, and this is done in the Settings section under ‘Timeline and Tagging’.
Facial recognition seems to be a small focus for Facebook at the moment, after it has already implemented a system that asks users to upload a selfie for verification purposes, and has introduced new policies concerning nude photos.