Photo tagging made easier

Whether you think it’s a good thing or a bad thing, online photo tagging is about to get much easier.

As many Facebook members are aware, photo tagging allows you to attach a name to a face in a photograph, so when you mouse over that person’s image their name appears. You can tag people in your own photographs, or you can also be tagged in other people’s pictures.

Of course, whether tagging is a good idea or not depends on the photo. Tagging people in most group photos – like wedding or vacation albums – is usually harmless fun. But, as many college students have found out, getting tagged in photos taken at parties or other vulnerable moments can be a totally different matter.

But as we have mentioned before, photos are the lifeblood of Facebook. Every day people add more than 10 million tags to photos on the site, and they are clearly one of the main driving forces in the huge growth of Facebook and social networking generally.

But tagging can also be a chore. Previously, if you added an album from, say, a college reunion party, you had to manually tag the same person in dozens of photos. Then, a few months ago, Facebook added group tagging, which allows you to type one name and apply it to multiple photos of the same person. Now, Facebook has announced tag suggestions, which will use facial recognition technology to help search for those photos and suggest the names for you.

Here’s how it works. When you or a friend upload new photos, Facebook will match images to other photos that you or your friends are tagged in and suggest names to be added. You can either accept the suggestions or decline them. Of course, the potential problem is that all your friends will have the same capability: when they upload photos of you, your name will also appear in their tag suggestions.

Mindful of privacy problems of the past, Facebook is adding a Privacy Settings feature which will allow Facebook members to withdraw their name from this suggested tagging feature. However, friends will still be able to manually tag you.

Facebook plans to roll out the new feature over the next several weeks. Clearly, as photo-recognition technology advances, the opportunities to identify people across multiple platforms – and not just Facebook – will increase. With each new innovation, it becomes just a little bit harder to retain control over our online reputations.

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