Facebook recently announced a new Facebook photos feature that will let you know when someone posts a picture of you — even if they don’t tag you. The new feature is set for launch this coming Tuesday.
Facebook Photos Feature
The new Facebook photos feature will use facial recognition technology to detect when pictures are posted on the social media network that match an existing user’s face. Joaquin Candela, Facebook’s director of applied machine learning, elaborated on the company’s direction with this new feature in a recent blog post.
“We’re doing this to prevent people from impersonating others on Facebook…[However], we always respect the privacy setting people select when posting a photo on Facebook (whether that’s friends, public or a custom audience), so you won’t receive a notification if you’re not in the audience.”
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The fact that you won’t receive a notification if you aren’t included in the post’s audience raises some concerns over how effective this new feature will actually be. Would-be impersonators can simply create a custom audience that excludes you, removing the convenience of the feature with creative usage of privacy settings.
The company already utilizes facial recognition technology in Facebook photos, so this feature is a logical step forward using a modified version of the existing infrastructure.
In addition to this new Facebook photos feature, the company is also adding a control that will allow users to turn off face recognition entirely. While the new technology is a valuable method to detect impersonation on the site — a problem that has become a major issue for some users — there are obvious concerns raised when an artificial technology can detect your face in photos. If you’ve disabled tag suggestions in the past, the new features will be turned off by default.
In Canada and the EU, these features will not be rolled out due to stricter privacy laws, which adds to the idea that these features may border on creepy and intrusive rather than helpful — at least for the majority of users.
Despite the concerns above, there are applications of Facebook’s facial recognition technology that can improve ease of use for a number of users. For people with visual impairments, the accessibility tool will now read out the names of people shown in a photo rather than “person one” — including the names of people who weren’t tagged in the photo.
“We’re always working to make it easier for all people, regardless of ability, to access Facebook, make connections and have more opportunities,” wrote Candela.
In a discussion with Buzzfeed News, Facebook product manager Nipun Mather described the development process, stating that the new features were developed with help from many people who have used Facebook’s tag suggestion functionality for their photos. The input from a variety of different users has helped to develop this new Facebook photos feature into a smart intelligence that’s ready to increase convenience for a number of users — provided they’re willing to part with a little bit of privacy.