How Does Facebook Find Photos You’re Not Tagged In? How The Facial Recognition Program “Photo Review” Works

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Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, panicking about unflattering photos of you lingering on friends' Facebook pages, untagged, that you're totally unaware of? You're clearly not alone, because the social media giant has answered. Thanks to a new update that's going live today, Facebook can find photos you're not tagged in using Photo Review — its facial recognition program. Now, you'll be aware of your image floating around on Facebook and decide for yourself if you want to tag yourself in it, leave it be, report it, or contact the person who posted it and beg them to take it down. But there's one important catch.

Here's how the feature works. Photo Review uses the same technology that suggests friends you might want to tag in your photos; but now, it can help you find photos of yourself, and will also notify you when someone uses a profile picture with your image in it. Sorry, catfishers! You'll have to find a new way to impersonate people.

There's one big caveat, though. In order to be notified that you appear in someone's photo, you must be a part of the audience for that post.

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This is because Facebook will always respect the privacy settings people use on their posts. So, for example, if a gal pal posts a group photo including you and shares it with her Facebook friends, and you're a Facebook friend, you'll be notified. If a totally random person you've never, ever met posts a photo with you in it, you won't receive a notification because you're not part of their audience.

One other important note: while we know this new feature will alert you to any photos you appear in moving forward, we don't yet know for certain if it'll go back through old ones. So if you're worried about any of those photos from the 2010 trip to Cabo lurking somewhere on FB, well, you might just have to live with it.

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It might sound a little complicated; but in an effort to give you even more control, Facebook is making this feature manageable through a simple on/off toggle. If you decide to set your tag suggestions to "none," your face recognition will be off until you choose otherwise. Your face template will be deleted, and it will also turn off Tag Suggestions. This part of the update will be rolling out over the next few weeks.


I know what you're thinking — or at least, what I'm thinking: is Facebook going to use this new feature to further personalize what I see in my news feed, sort of how it knows I'm 29 with no children and encourages me to sell my eggs? (Seriously, advertisers. Stay out of my reproductive system.) The answer is no, according to TechCrunch, who says they were told by some folks at FB that they have no plans to use facial recognition for ad targeting or choosing the content you see — like delivering to you ads related to places you've visited and have appeared in untagged photos for.

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No, it isn't the perfect solution. Total strangers can still steal your picture and pretend to be you. But at the very least, it's a step forward in having a say in your own images and being able to exercise a little more control. Some have found Tag Suggestions to worsen privacy control; and Photo Review could be the answer to that. Now, you'll have a better grasp on how your likeness is used and be able to step in should you encounter something you don't like.

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