One of Facebook’s simplest, yet most powerful features is the ability for users to upload photos which anyone on Facebook can then â€˜tag’ with the names of the people in the photo. Not only does the â€œtaggingâ€� feature allow someone to identify if you are in a given photo, but it also allows them to specifically identify what person you are.
â€œFacebook allows users to “tag” photos. Tagging a photo means that you identify the people pictured in the image. If the people are your Facebook friends, the tags will serve as links to their profiles. The photos will also be added to the “More Photos of Me” section of their profiles. You can also add captions to each of your photos. The options to tag and add captions are available from the “Edit Photos” tab of any album. Finally, Facebook allows users to comment on each others’ photos.â€�
An inevitable forthcoming feature will be the uploading video to Facebook and it stands to reason that the same tagging technology could be applied to video as well as photos. [My roommate has shown me that videos can be tagged on Facebook, although not via scroll over. Geotagging will not be far behind (already is available on Flickr).]
Here is where it gets scary in terms of identity. First, this notion of tagging is extremely important because it represents meta data that can be collected and stored, especially since sites like Facebook are at least partially open to indexing in Google. Now consider that Google images could also adopted the tagging feature, along with Youtube, MetaCafe and Flickrâ€¦
Meanwhile, facial recognition software is coming on strong. With all the search engine indexing of digital imagery, it is easy to start aggregating and applying facial recognition patterns to index people, places, times, etc. What’s more, as mobile phones begin to adopt better photo and digital video capabilities, more and more images will find their way onto the Internet, ultimately to be tagged either by humans or software.
The repercussions are scary. Could it be the case that you are walking by an abortion clinic protest and get caught in a video, or photo being taken by a bystander? Yes. Could a software program then catch your face in that image once it’s uploaded to Google? Yes.
Legally, would you have a right to do anything if you felt misrepresented or your â€˜presence’ was being taken out of context?