A New Browser Extension Allows You to See 'Secret' Tags on Facebook Photos


Tagging is one of the most prominent (and often irritating) features of Facebook. If a photo exists of you on there, you needn't seek it out because it will surely find you, and remind you that you tried drink 4 litres of cider out of an antique vase last night.

Profile tags aren't the only tags on Facebook though, certainly not. Behind the curtain, Facebook have an arsenal of other tags used to categorise images, ones which you were never meant to see, but now thanks to a browser extension, you can.

The extension is imaginatively named 'Show Facebook Computer Vision Tags Extension', and is compatible with both Chrome and Mozilla. Once installed, it places an overlay on the top right corner of any Facebook image you look at, showing the secret 'vision' tags which were automatically applied to it once it was uploaded.

Said tags relate to what appears in the image, things like 'smiling', '3 people', 'music', 'cat' and so forth. It all sounds pretty innocent, but the point of the extension is to demonstrate just how much information Facebook are pulling from your photos, and they aren't alone - Google, Apple, Flickr and others all use similar systems.

One of the main, and totally understandable reasons this system exists is for screen reading, allowing blind users to scroll through Facebook images and have some idea what's being depicted. On the flip side, it could form the basis for an even more invasive form of targeted advertising, as is pointed out on the extension's GitHub page.

Nobody is rushing to boycott Facebook or anyone else over this, but whichever side of the argument you land on (my money's on most people being totally indifferent), it's important to be aware what kind of info Facebook are gathering on you, even if it's not immediately obvious what they might be using it for.

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