Insights & Analyses

Facebook identity tools let users know when a photo of them is uploaded, even if they aren’t tagged

December 20, 2017

Social networking giant Facebook already knows what your face looks like. Now, the service will let people know when photos of them are uploaded, even if the uploader did not tag them in the picture.

The new identity management tools on Facebook rely on the company’s facial recognition technology, which has previously been used to recommend tagging friends in photos. Now, users will be able to find images they are not officially tagged in, and make decisions regarding how the photo is shown on Facebook.

If a user is recognized in a photo but is not tagged, the individual can choose whether to tag themselves, leave themselves untagged, or reach out to the uploader if they have concerns about the image.

When an image is uploaded and a person is recognized, they will receive an alert on Facebook noting that a photo “might include you.” The user is then invited to go into the network’s photo review section to see it and address it.

The capabilities will be further expanded in the future to avoid digital identity theft, misleading account creation, bullying or pranking.

“We want people to feel confident when they post pictures of themselves on Facebook, so we’ll soon begin using face recognition technology to let people know when someone else uploads a photo of them as their profile picture,” the company explained in a blog post. “We’re doing this to prevent people from impersonating others on Facebook.”

Finally, Facebook will also use its identification technology to aid visually impaired users, by describing images and saying who is tagged in them aloud.

The company noted that users still control whether or not Facebook can recognize them in photos and videos. It plans to make those controls even easier with a simple on and off switch, instead of settings for individual features.

Facebook previously announced last month that it is also exploring facial recognition technology as a potential replacement for captcha authentication. The feature asks users to upload a photo of themselves, clearly showing their face, in order to prove they are a real person.

With more than 2 billion active monthly users, most of which have uploaded selfies and tagged photos of themselves on the site, Facebook is a major player in the identity and verification space. The company has been pushing to supplant email addresses with Facebook user accounts for online identification across sites and platforms.

Its pushes in identity, however, come after the service has faced considerable criticism for aiding in the spread of false information. In the lead up to the U.S. 2016 presidential election, Russian actors bought ads on the site in an effort to sway the votes of users and sow discontent among the electorate.