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Facebook ‘Photo Magic’ tool scans through all of users’ phone camera pictures, before they’re uploaded

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Users have probably already given permission for the app to scan through their phone

The tool will initially only be available on Android in Australia, but will roll out widely if it is popular Getty

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Facebook is to release a new ‘Photo Magic’ tool that will scan through the pictures on its users’ cameras to tell them which photos to share.

The tool, which will be integrated with Facebook Messenger, is intended to help people find old pictures and share them with the people that are in them. But it will also mean that all of the pictures on a persons’ phone are being sent up to Facebook’s servers.

Users will have to let Facebook Messenger see their pictures so that the Photo Magic tool can work. But most users have probably already done that — a pop-up tells them to do so when they first share a picture.
On Android, the app scans the pictures as soon as they are taken, offering a push notification that advises users to send the photo to the people that are in it. On iOS that process is slightly slower, since Apple is more restrictive about how much and how often an app can see pictures.

Users can either opt out of the facial recognition tool, or turn off the notification.
Facebook Messenger boss David Marcus confirmed that the feature was “testing in Australia” and would be rolling out in the US soon. It’s unlikely that it will come to the UK or the rest of Europe any time soon, since the EU has stopped people from operating facial recognition software that doesn’t allow people to explicitly opt in.

The tool is in testing on Android in Australia and will be rolling out on iOS later. In both cases it will likely be added with an update rather than requiring the downloading of a new app.


 





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