Facebook AI will alert users when untagged photos of them are uploaded

The new feature could protect users from embarrassing photos, or from being impersonated on the site.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • Facebook will use machine learning to notify users when a photo of them is uploaded, giving them an option to contact the user who uploaded it.
  • The new feature can help professionals avoid being associated with embarrassing photos, or can protect users from having their photos used in advertising.

Facebook will use machine learning to alert users if a photo of them has been uploaded by another user, even if they haven't been tagged in the photo. The new feature was detailed in a blog post by Joaquin Quiñonero Candela, Facebook's director of applied machine learning, on Tuesday.

Professional users can leverage the feature to make sure they aren't tagged in any inappropriate or embarrassing pictures. On the other hand, it could also help consumers from unwittingly having their photos used with an advertisement or associated with a specific Facebook page.

If this sounds familiar, it's because Facebook has been using the same kind of artificial intelligence (AI) and facial recognition technologies to suggest certain friends for photo tags and more for quite some time. Using a simple on/off switch, users can choose to enable or disable the feature from their settings, the post said.

SEE: Social media policy template (Tech Pro Research)

If you aren't a part of the intended audience (friends, public, or custom audience) for the photo—based on what the poster chooses—you will not be notified, the post said.

"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," Candela wrote in the post.

Additionally, the new feature could help cut down on catfishing—a trend where a person creates a fake or misleading social media profile, often with stolen images from a legitimate profile, to deceive others. With the new feature, users will receive a specific alert when another user attempts to use a photo of them as their own profile photo, allowing the original user to follow up. "We're doing this to prevent people from impersonating others on Facebook," the post said.

Users with visual impairments will also see an improved user experience with the new features, the post noted. Those using a screen reader will be told who is in a given photo in their newsfeed, even if those people aren't tagged.

By furthering its facial recognition efforts and simplifying the settings behind them, Facebook is proving how important machine learning learning is to the future of consumer tech products. Social media, especially, will continue to be a proving ground for technologies such as facial recognition, natural language processing, and more for years to come.

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Image: James Martin/CNET

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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