Facebook Adds Face Recognition for Photos

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Facebook is introducing a new face recognition tool that can automatically identify and tag users in pictures that are posted to the site, the company announced Wednesday.

Until now, users have had the option to upload a picture to the site and then methodically tag friends and family members who appear in those pictures one by one. But now, Facebook hopes to make this tagging process easier by simply scanning the faces that appear in a given photo and suggesting the names of the people who appear in it.

“When you or a friend upload new photos, we use face recognition software—similar to that found in many photo editing tools—to match your new photos to other photos you're tagged in,” the company said in a blog post. “We group similar photos together and, whenever possible, suggest the name of the friend in the photos.”

Facebook will begin rolling out this new tool over the next few weeks, but it’s likely to cause some controversy even before it officially launches.

In effect, Facebook is acting as a kind of big brother for your social life. With this software, the company can look at any picture posted to the site and potentially identify all users in it. That might be fine if it’s a picture of a couple smiling for the camera, but if it’s a photo of someone in a more compromising position, the feature could end up automatically tagging someone who’d prefer not to be identified, which may be seen as a privacy violation.

For their part, Facebook is very conscious these days of privacy concerns, after a string of complaints from users in recent years. So the company is trying to skirt any complaints in advance by offering users the ability to opt-out by adjusting the privacy settings, thereby preventing your name from appearing as a suggestion when Facebook scans a photo with you in it.

Of course, if most users choose to opt-out, it will pretty much negate the whole point of the new feature. Still, we would recommend anyone who ever plays hooky from work or takes pictures while drinking at parties play it safe and opt out. Or, at the very least, you should be diligent in checking for potentially risky photos that have been tagged of you so you can un-tag them later. Otherwise, you may end up accidentally committing one of these Facebook blunders.

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