Facebook’s Facial Recognition Adds Tags Automatically

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.

Clint Boulton eWEEK USA 2012. Ziff Davis Enterprise Inc. All Rights Reserved

View Comments

  • Sooner or later people are going to realise how unsafe facebook is and facebook is going to crash and its popularity will reduce. People are already disabling their accounts. I have disabled mine and am trying out Diaspora. I will be switching to MyCube once it launches as it promises to be much safer

  • Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, says:

    "While this feature may be appealing for those Facebook users that are keen to share every detail of their social life with their online friends, it is alarming to those who wish to have a little more anonymity. Rather than allowing users to opt-out of this feature, surely Facebook users should be given the option to opt-in? A recent Sophos poll showed that 90% of Facebook users think that all Facebook features should become totally opt-in. With this new feature, I'd say that this percentage is likely to rise."

  • Facebook was not safe before and its become even more so with the addition of this new feature which brings with it a whole new series of privacy issues. I have deleted my Facebook account in disgust because im just too worried at the amount of data the website now holds on an individual.

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Clint Boulton eWEEK USA 2012. Ziff Davis Enterprise Inc. All Rights Reserved

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