Facebook is changing the way users learn about photos they’re in. Using the social media platform’s facial recognition that’s already in place, Facebook will now start notifying you when you’re in a photo someone uploads—even if they don’t tag you in it.
Facebook issued a press release this week detailing how the new process will work. With the new feature, Facebook’s facial recognition will spot users in other peoples’ photos and notify them about the upload. They’ll be able to go into their “Photo Review” and decide what action to take with the photo. The company notes that no one’s privacy settings will be overridden, however. Users will only be notified that they’re in a picture if the photo is set to public or if the user is in the post’s audience. So if a photo of a user is uploaded and the picture is set to a private audience, the person in the photo won’t know.
Facebook’s news post gives two reasons for the change: safety and accessibility. They want to cut back on people taking other users’ images and setting them as their own profile photos. (When someone uses another person’s photo and passes it off as their own, it’s called “catfishing,” a practice that’s fairly common on social media.) Current profile photos are always public, so this should help cut back on impersonation.
Also, Facebook suggests this feature will help people with visual impairments. Now when a photo is described, it will include the names of everyone in the photo, whether they’ve been tagged or not. This will give people who are visually impaired an even more accurate experience when using social media.
The press release is also quick to point out that being included in the feature is not required of everyone. For one thing, it won’t be used at all in Canada or the European Union, because Facebook doesn’t use facial recognition there. For another, users can simply opt-out of the technology. Facebook is reshaping their settings to make it easier to turn off facial recognition. Their press release shows a screenshot of a “Facial Recognition” section of their mobile settings, and they describe the upcoming change as simply using an “on/off switch” that tells Facebook whether you want them to recognize you in pictures.
Many people are still wary of facial recognition technology, and understandably so. The good news is it’ll soon be very easy to stop Facebook from using it on those who are uncomfortable with it. For those who don’t mind having their face mapped, though, it’ll be easier to keep up with the photos they’re included in. If the feature works as promised, Facebook could majorly cut down on impostors. And while they’re at it, they’ll make their platform more useful and appealing to people who are visually impaired.