The Coolest (and Creepiest) Thing on Facebook

How "Photo Tagger" lets anybody recognize you

By Scott Budman
|  Monday, Nov 16, 2009  |  Updated 9:18 AM PDT
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The Coolest (and Creepiest) Thing on Facebook

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A new Facebook app has its eye on your photos.

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The Coolest (and Creepiest) Thing on Facebook

Facebook likes to talk about privacy, but the truth is the site is all about revealing yourself.
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Facebook likes to talk about privacy, but the truth is the site is all about revealing yourself.

A new app, however, may take Facebook's hey-look-at-me culture one step too far. 

It's called "Photo Tagger," from a company called Face.com.  It uses amazing photo recognition technology to take your uploaded photos, go out to the Web, and identify them through "tags."
 
That in itself doesn't sound all that bad, but when we tried this in the newsroom, it scared the crap out of just about everybody with a Facebook account.  Here's why:  While it's a convenient way to tag photos you may have just uploaded as an album onto your Facebook page, it can quickly and accurately identify someone who may not know they're in your album, or who may not be a friend of yours.

The only mistakes we saw were when someone was ID'ed, but it was actually their twin brother or sister.  That in itself unsettled a few of our test subjects.  

Understandably, this has been creeping out many of the women I work with.  Now, to Face.com's credit, the app asks the Facebook member if he or she wants to be tagged, and they can opt not to.   You can adjust your "privacy" settings on the site.  You can also visit websites that specialize in keeping you (and your kids) safe, like GoMcGruff.com (you, know, the Crime Dog).  But again, once you're on Facebook, do you really have any more privacy?
 
Face.com's CEO Gil Hirsch, talking to us from Tel Aviv Israel, where the company is based, explained that his company's technology helps to solve the problem of identifying people whose faces are not facing the camera (or are out of focus) when you take a picture, and are therefore harder to tag. 

He says the point of "Photo Tagger" is not to stalk people, but rather to better identify people who are OK with you putting pictures of them onto your Facebook photo albums.
 
In a social networking landscape where being recognized is currency, this new app could actually bring you more credit for your work.  It will make it easier for you to be seen, and identified.  But that's also the point of the concern. 

How often have you been "friended" by someone you don't know?  This will likely increase that.  If you social network, folks, your stuff is on the 'net, and will be seen by others.  They don't call it the World Wide Web for nothing.   Use "Photo Tagger" if you'd like.  The technology is pretty cool.  You just have to get over the fact that being recognized is easier than ever. 

Scott Budman wants to know how you feel about "Photo Tagger." Hit him on Twitter: @scottbudman

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