Facebook’s Facial Recognition Adds Tags Automatically

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Facebook is adding a facial recognition capability to tag friends’ images automatically on the social network

Looking to make life easier for users who apply 100 million tags daily to photos on its social network, Facebook has said it is adding tag suggestions that use facial recognition software.

The new tag suggestions help users easily tag batches of photos that contain many of the same people. This has historically been a cumbersome practice because users have had to type in a friend’s name for every single photo. There are more than 100 million photos uploaded to Facebook each day.

Look-Alike Tag Suggestions

Facebook added group tagging capabilities in October to let users apply a single name to multiple pictures of the same person. Tag suggestions take the efficiency-factor up another notch.

Now when users upload photos, Facebook scans them with facial recognition software to match new photos to other photos you are tagged in. Similar photos are then grouped together, with Facebook suggesting the name of the friend in photos. See an example in this Facebook blog post from Facebook engineer Justin Mitchell.

“Now, if you upload pictures from your cousin’s wedding, we’ll group together pictures of the bride and suggest her name,” said Mitchell. “Instead of typing her name 64 times, all you’ll need to do is click ‘Save’ to tag all of your cousin’s pictures at once.”

Facebook alerts users when they have been tagged and they can untag themselves at any time.

The idea of facial recognition software makes some people nervous. Google can do this with its Google Goggles visual search application, but has declined to do so for fear of the privacy backlash. Facebook has the benefit of a closed social network of 550 million users at its fingertips, so it can make such a push with the right safeguards.

To ensure user privacy, users who do not want their name popping up in a suggested tag can disable this feature in the privacy settings section. Users must click “Customize Settings” and “Suggest photos of me to friends and their name will no longer be associated in photo tags”.

However, friends may continue to tag friends the cumbersome way — manually. As currently implemented, only friends can tag each other in photos.

Tag suggestions will be rolling out to US users in the next few weeks.

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