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Tagging Friends' Faces in Facebook

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Facebook recently added a new face recognition feature that helps you tag friends in the pictures you upload. Is this a good thing or a potential invasion of privacy? In this article, Michael Miller, author of Facebook for Grown-Ups and Facebook Essentials, shows you how to use Facebook's new face tagging feature and how to avoid unwanted face tags.

You might think of Facebook as a social network (which it is), but Facebook is also the Internet's largest photo-sharing site. Facebook users upload more than 3 billion photos each month, which means there are a lot of digital photos to share.

When you upload a photo to Facebook, you're asked to "tag" each person who appears in the photo; this makes it easier for your friends to view themselves and other friends in your photos. Up to now, this tagging process has been manual, but Facebook recently added face recognition technology that attempts to automatically figure out which friends are in your pictures.

At first glance, this face recognition feature seems like a good thing; it should reduce the amount of time you spend tagging your photos. That said, do you really want Facebook automatically identifying you in any picture your friends upload? Some view this as a potential invasion of privacy, and not a good thing at all.

Understanding Facebook's Face Recognition Feature

Facebook's face-recognition feature is actually part of a larger enhancement to the site's photo-tagging functionality. The goal is to make tagging pictures easier, so that more people will do it.

Let's face it; if you upload a ton of pictures, tagging each photo manually can be somewhat tedious. Imagine uploading 100 or so family reunion photos, and having to tag each and every appearance of Uncle Fred by hand—all two dozen of them.

Facebook's first attempt to make this process easier is to use basic face detection technology, the same kind used in today's digital cameras, to identify where the faces are in the photos you upload. Now, when you upload a photo with people in it, Facebook puts a little box around each face in the picture.

Next, Facebook attempts to group similar faces. That is, it tries to find multiple pictures of the same person and then groups them together on the photo-tagging page. You can then indicate a single tag and have it applied to multiple photos. That's a one-tag approach to all two dozen of those photos of your Uncle Fred.

Finally, Facebook's latest face recognition technology will suggest tags for the faces it identifies. Or at least, it will try to; to be honest, this technology isn't perfect and doesn't always apply itself. It works best when you upload a photo of someone you've tagged previously and perhaps even multiple times in the past. (It kind of learns by example.) If the suggestion is correct, you can accept the tag. If not, just tag the person as you would normally.

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