Facebook is rolling out a new facial recognition feature

Dominic Lipinski  PA Images  Getty Images

Facebook said it also plans to use facial recognition technology to notify users if someone else uploads a photo of them as their profile picture, which the company said may help reduce impersonations, as well as in software that describes photos in words for people who have vision loss, so that they can tell who is in a photo.

"You're in control of your image on Facebook and can make choices such as whether to tag yourself, leave yourself untagged, or reach out to the person who posted the photo if you have concerns about it", the company said in a statement. Those in the European Union and Canada, meanwhile, don't even get the choice to begin with, as Facebook doesn't offer its face recognition technology due to data sharing and privacy legislation. Whether it's an unauthorizied photo of you that you want taken off Facebook, an embarassing pic you don't want tagged but want to monitor comments on, or someone trying to pretend to be you, Photo Review gives people more visibility into how their likeness is used.

If users keep facial recognition on, they'll have access to more settings on tagging. The new system adds to that, identifying who specifically is in the image, even if they've not been manually tagged first.

A user must be part of the permitted audience for the page posting the photo in order to receive the notification. "We're doing this to prevent people from impersonating others on Facebook", Joaquin Candela, Facebook's director of applied machine learning, wrote in a blog post.

Fake accounts have been implicated in the spread of false information on Facebook as well as in some scams perpetrated on the network.


A Facebook spokesperson said these lawsuits had nothing to do with Facebook's new features.

The new features debuting today will be available everywhere except Europe and Canada, where privacy regulators have previously raised objections to Facebook's auto photo tagging feature, Sherman said.

"If people have a hard time recognizing someone, then in those situations, computer vision will struggle too", he said. "If someone posts a photo of you you might not know about it", Rob Sherman, Facebook's head of privacy, told The Verge. "We designed this as an on/off switch because people gave us feedback that they prefer a simpler control than having to decide for every single feature using face recognition technology", Facebook says.

This technology, which Facebook has been using since 2010, can compare human faces in new photos with stored data on Facebook to determine who the person is.

But the system is still not sophisticated enough to provide a full description of the action in a scene, Mather said.

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