Facial Grouping in Personal Photo apps and asking for permission

With the topical post about facial recognition usage by retailers I’m curious if you as a personal photographer ask for permission to use facial grouping as Microsoft Photo app ask you to do? I never bother but that seems a bit hypocritical and it’s not possible to unselect those who object on a more individual level.


This is presumably the Windows desktop application? I have never seen that notice, but it is scary.

There are few laws about photographing adults in public spaces. If you are making money from the photo those in it may seek recompense, but mot laws in Australia focus on protecting the privacy of children.

Of course, technology runs where regulation crawls. In this instance what Microsoft calls ‘facial grouping’ appears to use facial recognition, scanning your personal photo library and identifying where the same face appears in multiple images. It adds faces to the ‘people’ tab of Microsoft Photos and allows them to be added to the People app (for your contacts list).

Fantastic feature in some cases, but there is always potential for misuse. A private investigator would find the feature invaluable, as would a stalker. One has to assume that it would apply the same technology to images downloaded from the Internet, potentially turning a ‘face in the crowd’ into someone linked with dozens of protests and therefore to be monitored by law enforcement agencies.

On the bright side, it appears that the data does not leave your device (i.e. Microsoft or a third party is not collecting your database of faces). I say ‘appears’, because while the app statement refers to the data being stored on your device it does not specifically state that the data is not shared with anyone else. Microsoft’s privacy statement, of course (and I have no idea why I am directed to what appears to be the Canadian version), is like most statements of its kind. Both too long for the average user to make sense of, and full of loopholes that mean it does not protect much privacy at all.

As a side note, there is a website and browser plugin that helps users make sense of ‘terms of service’. ToSDR (Terms of Service: Didn’t Read) does not have a ranking specifically for Windows, but does have a few rankings for other Microsoft products - and the company’s terms of service do not look encouraging.


Yes, it’s the Windows Desktop app.

No comments about Microsoft passing responsibility for consent to personal photographers?

All technology has the potential for misuse. Create an axe to cut down trees, and find that it’s great at cutting people’s heads off. Find a way to generate enormous amounts of energy by splitting an atom, and… you know the rest.

Should Microsoft make facial recognition available to Windows users? Well, if it doesn’t someone else will just like someone else will split the atom or the tree stump. And in this instance the decision about whether to use the technology will rest with the photographer - whether they be family chronicler or stalker.