Facebook Stalking Takes Another Step Towards Sci-fi

Facebook Stalking Takes Another Step Towards Sci-fi

How many megapixels??
How many megapixels??
Have you ever snooped around a friend's photo albums on Facebook? Well, you're a liar (unless you just admitted it) for, as we all know, Facebook stalking is now the number one leisure time activity for 90% of the western world, probably costing Irish businesses €100BN a year().

Everywhere you go, at every party, there's at least one person in attendance with a camera-phone who wants to immortalise the moment, however mundane, and immediately upload the evidence to their Facebook page around 3am that morning.

You wake to find your sordid adventures chronicled at every unflattering angle. You know this because someone tag-happy clown has made their mission to put a name to every single face. Just great.

Then, after requesting the untagging (and removal) of the worst offenders, and regardless of the shame, you end up cruising all of the photos and all their other albums too. Why? Curiosity, spite, boredom, who knows.

But what happens when you don't recognise some of the (possibly attractive?) people in the photos, but annoyingly they're not tagged with any names?

Ooh. Who's that with Johnny? Isn't that the girl from that bar? I swear I know that dude from somewhere!

Ah, if only there were a tool to assist your filthy insatiable snooping…

Face recognition software is nothing new to the police who scan millions of features  captured on CCTV footage every day. But what about the general public? Some time ago, Google images added a secret "face" tag to the end of its queries–you could narrow your search to pictures of faces only. That feature has since left Beta and is now a standard option in image searching. But, it doesn't put names to faces (at least not for the general public, we all know what happens in the back room).

Unbelievably, it does exist within Facebook. There is an application (Photo Tagger) that will not only scan your albums for the faces of your friends but it will also scan other people's albums and supply the names of people you don't even know.

Just let that sink in for a minute. You can bulk process other people's photos searching for untagged faces, then the application suggests names for them. There's no more hiding, folks–other people are doing it to you as you read this. A similar application from the same source invites you to tag unknown faces it thinks you may recognise. Jeez!

I've tried this application successfully (purely for research purposes!) on several albums belonging to 'acquaintances' and had phenomenal success finding names. It even worked on some recent Halloween photos, recognising people in heavy disguise where even I, a human, would have had difficulty–let's be honest, it spotted people I never would have guessed.

So where does that leave us? Well, all Facebook users are instantly screwed, of course. However, those Luddites who have so far resisted signing up, though they will continue to appear in a great many photos, will possibly remain immune from proper tagging and face recognition since their names appear only as plain text captions to their photos–I can't vouch for this however.

It is also worth noting that a simple way to abuse (or perhaps realise the potential of) this application would be to simply upload a photograph of any person you may wish to identify. You could scan in some old photos or even just take a picture of someone on the street, then have it analysed instantly via mobile. If they're on Facebook, you got 'em. Creepy, huh?

So…is that anonymous holiday romance from five years ago ringing any bells yet?

Ouch!

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Endnotes:
  1. Figures completely made up [back ↩]