Facial Recognition

Opening up your phone’s photos app, you may notice that your photos are automatically sorted, usually by a general folder, location, sometimes a date, sometimes by person. I’ll never forget opening up my iPhone’s photos app and thinking, How does it know to collect all of the photos of my mother into one album? 

What is it?

Facial recognition systems use something called biometrics to measure facial features and turn this into an algorithm that recognizes different people from across your device and across the internet. These algorithms are used by organizations like Facebook, Apple as well as organizations like the FBI—which has a database of about 412 million faces. Social media apps use facial recognition to recommend “tagging” specific people in photos you upload, which is convenient, but may make you uncomfortable. After all, you can change a password, but you cannot change your face or fingerprints.

Tips for avoiding facial recognition: 

  • Opt for a passcode on your phone instead of Face ID or fingerprint.  
  • Avoid posting full-face straight-on pictures of yourself on social media.  
  • If you are uncomfortable with someone else’s post of you, untag yourself.  
  • Edit your photos: even just a little editing, like darkening or lightening the image to change the shadows on your face, can prevent facial recognition.