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Facebook using facial recognition to find photos of you that you're not tagged in

Aaron Aupperlee
| Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017, 12:21 p.m.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder and chief executive,  introduces the 'Home' app suite that integrates with Android.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder and chief executive, introduces the 'Home' app suite that integrates with Android.

Facebook rolled out new tools Tuesday to notify you when someone uploads a photo of you and to try to prevent harassment on the social network.

The tools are the latest move from Facebook as it tries to make the social network safer and more enjoyable for users.

Recently, former company executives have raised concerns about how much time we spend on Facebook and what it is doing to our society.

Facebook announced Tuesday a new use for its facial recognition technology. The company already uses facial recognition to suggest friends to tag in photos by scanning the photo for faces stored in its system. The new feature will notify you when a friend uploads a photo of you and does not tag you in it and when someone uses a photo featuring your face for a profile picture.

"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," Joaquin Quiñonero Candela, director of applied machine learning at Facebook, wrote in a post Tuesday .

You will be notified only if the post was shared with you. Users can tailor who sees a post — friends, public or a custom audience. If you're not in that audience, you won't be notified.

Facebook's facial recognition works by analyzing the pixels in a photo you're tagged in and creating a string of numbers called a template to identify your face. When a new photo or video shows up on Facebook, it is compared to the template to determine who it is. Users can turn facial recognition on or off on Facebook.

Facebook will also notify you when someone else uses a photo of you for a profile picture.

"We're doing this to prevent people from impersonating others on Facebook," Candela wrote.

Facebook expanded its facial recognition to help people with vision impairments know who is in photos even if they aren't tagged in the photo, Candela wrote.

In conjunction with the new facial recognition tools, Facebook put out another post in its "Hard Questions" series. The post is titled " Hard Questions: Should I Be Afraid of Face Recognition Technology? "

Rob Sherman, Facebook's deputy chief privacy officer, wrote about the positive potentials — unlocking phones, logging into bank accounts, making digital payments, organizing photos, finding missing or kidnapped children and helping officials confirm passport photos — and the bad — abuse by law enforcement, potential for racial bias and Big Brother-esque government surveillance.

"When it comes to face recognition, control matters. We listen carefully to feedback from people who use Facebook, as well as from experts in the field," Sherman wrote.

He added that Facebook will not introduce features to let strangers know who you are.

Facebook also introduced tools Tuesday to try to prevent harassment. The site now recognizes new accounts made by people you have blocked and prevents the new account from sending you friend requests or messages.

"We are now using various signals (like an IP address) to help us proactively recognize this type of account and prevent its owner from sending a message or friend request to the person who blocked the original account," Antigone Davis, Facebook's global head of safety, wrote in a post . "The person who blocked the original account is in control, and must initiate contact with the new account in order for them to interact normally."

Facebook will also allow users to ignore a conversation in Messenger and move it out of the inbox without having to block the sender.

"If someone is being harassed, blocking the abuser sometimes prompts additional harassment, particularly offline," Davis wrote. "We've also heard from groups that work with survivors of domestic violence that being able to see messages is often a valuable tool to assess if there is risk of additional abuse."

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

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