Internet discovers Apple's Photos object detection feature, controversy inevitably ensues

Posted:
in iPhone edited October 2017
Twitter on Monday caught wind of how specific a now year-old object recognition feature in Apple Photos can get, with users expressing concern over the system's ability to detect "brassieres."




"Discovered" by Twitter user ellieeewbu, the Photos feature in question introduced at WWDC in 2016 integrates machine learning and AI technology to detect and tag faces, objects and places in user photos. The key word here is tag; no data is offloaded, no folders are created and no images are "collected."

Highlighted by Quartz, ellieeewbu's concern is that Apple is saving photos of women's undergarments and creating a folder containing said pictures. The assumption is incorrect in assuming Apple saves photos (the feature analyzes pictures already in a user's album), but it is correct in noting iOS creates categories -- not folders -- for viewing previous Photos searches.

On iOS and macOS, Photos features an AI trained to enable image searches for anything from dogs and cats to aquariums, haversacks and various sports. As noted by developer Kenny Yin in a Medium post detailing the 4,432 different scenes and objects Photos is capable of recognizing, the app can also detect facial expressions and popular locations. Apple has likely grown the list substantially since Yin first published his rundown over a year ago.

Importantly, and unlike other services like Google Photos, all photo analysis in Apple's app is performed locally, meaning no data is sent to the cloud. Thanks to machine learning technology, pictures are analyzed and -- if an object, person or place is recognized -- assigned metadata, enabling quick searches for "brassiere" or "brassieres" without sending picture information to an offsite processing farm.

The perceived problem could stem from a user interface quirk that automatically creates categories from past searches. For example, searching for "baseball" creates an easily accessible list of photos that were deemed to include baseball themed imagery and therefore bear that metadata. These lists are not quite folders in the traditional sense, as Photos does not move images into distinct folders. Instead, Photos categories are pulled from the larger whole, in this case a user's photo album.

In its own commentary, The Verge points out that Photos lacks similar search options for male undergarments like "boxers" or "briefs." Whether the exclusion is intentional or simply an oversight is unknown.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 28
    I love this feature. A friend of mine was shocked a couple of months ago when he searched for “risotto” and Photos showed him pictures he’d taken of some of his homemade risotto. 
    RacerhomieXargonautwatto_cobralolliver
  • Reply 2 of 28
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,087member
    God, her instagram is horrifying. Not a single photo of her without 10 lbs of face powder. 

    Oh, and.. 

    Honestly, fuck these people. YOU took photos of yourself having sex with your phone. That's Apple's fault, why? Why did you take them if you didn't want to see them? Damn these narcissistic attention whores. 


    edited October 2017 patchythepiratejcs2305caliRacerhomieXrandominternetpersoncyberzombierazorpitargonautleavingthebiggwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 28
    OMG... people know you’re wearing a bra! Stop the presses! Hold the lead story, boys.
    cyberzombiewatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 28

    Pretty absurd.

    What people should really be complaining about is that it's sophisticated enough to search for "brassieres", yet Apple cant bother to include the ability to search for memes. Almost everyone that uses the internet saves memes to their phone. How can Apple not include this capability? 

  • Reply 5 of 28
    slurpy said:
    God, her instagram is horrifying. Not a single photo of her without 10 lbs of face powder. 

    Oh, and.. 

    Honestly, fuck these people. YOU took photos of yourself having sex with your phone. That's Apple's fault, why? Why did you take them if you didn't want to see them? Damn these narcissistic attention whores. 


    Good user name for her.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 28
    Not sure whether First World Problem or Life Is Suffering is a better fit. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 28

    Pretty absurd.

    What people should really be complaining about is that it's sophisticated enough to search for "brassieres", yet Apple cant bother to include the ability to search for memes. Almost everyone that uses the internet saves memes to their phone. How can Apple not include this capability? 

    "Almost everyone"? I know people who share these stupid things with other people, but I don't know of ANYONE who saves memes to their phone.
    lolliver
  • Reply 8 of 28
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,556member
    For a moment there, I thought the problem was that Apple was logging pictures of small, overpriced restaurants.  I should learn to read properly. 
    randominternetpersonanantksundarammike1llamarazorpitargonautjony0
  • Reply 9 of 28
    brucemcbrucemc Posts: 1,499member
    I wonder if she (and the rest of the social media world) realize they have been training Facebook / Google on who they actually are by tagging their names in photos, sharing their locations, and so on. These firms know:
    - your real name and where you live, your phone number and email addresses
    - all about your family, kids, parents, mistresses
    - can identify you in any photo that anyone takes or in media anywhere in the world,if ever shared on the platform or publicly online
    - where you work and what you think of your boss and coworkers, and have a good idea of how much you make
    - who and what you like, dislike, interests, hobbies 
    - where you like to go for dinner, activities, vacation
    - political views, social views, sexual orientation 
    - and through correlation of credit card purchase info with mobile identifier can pretty much determine what you buy / when

    So other than your social insurance number and banking information, they know everything about their subscribers.  Today that info is not shared as it is more valuable to use for targeted advertising by them .  Will that always remain the case...

    But hey, Apple having on-device capability to identify scenes / objects that isn't shared is the bigger issue as usual...(face palm)
    calideepinsidersvanstromequality72521mike54patchythepirateargonautdocno42entropysleavingthebigg
  • Reply 10 of 28
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,087member
    "For the record, Google Photos does the exact same thing when you search “brassiere,” except your photos are stored on the cloud, in Google’s servers."

    But that's fucking fine, right? Just to put an exclamation mark and the absurdity of this outrage. 
    calimike54razorpitpatchythepiratejony0watto_cobralolliver
  • Reply 11 of 28
    I chuckle when reading this, it is as if people actually complaining the privacy offered by Apple just because it is smart enough to find their "naked pic" but gladly and purposely sharing "everything" by exposing themselves to social media, Facebook or Google. What an irony. Is good guy always the bad sheep here and actual bad guys are always the saint?
    calirandominternetpersondeepinsidermike54razorpitargonautentropysleavingthebiggjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 28

    It is kind of hit and miss for me. Not as amazing as I thought it would be. But I'm impressed it's there.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 28
    cqw_ipohcqw_ipoh Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    Much ado about nothing. Twitter users should be more concerned with how Twitter discriminates against some speech and political groups than Apple's Photos object recognition feature.
    razorpitargonautentropyswatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 28
    kevin kee said:
    I chuckle when reading this, it is as if people actually complaining the privacy offered by Apple just because it is smart enough to find their "naked pic" but gladly and purposely sharing "everything" by exposing themselves to social media, Facebook or Google. What an irony. Is good guy always the bad sheep here and actual bad guys are always the saint?
    It does make you wonder if there isn't "outrage money" coming in from some third party. How can someone that dumb be aware of background iOS intelligence?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 28
    ...if Apple really wants to promote 'we are not evil', then could users simply be given a global off preference switch, please...?

    The Patriot Act may afford some privacy protection to some (in principle, widely questioned) yet is the potential reach only a matter of bug, hack or iOS 'upgrade'...?

    It has been suggested by one (for the macOS Photos) "...try pasting in the following command into Terminal, then press enter: launchctl unload -w/System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.photoanalysisd.plist"...
    edited October 2017
  • Reply 16 of 28
    slurpy said:
    God, her instagram is horrifying. Not a single photo of her without 10 lbs of face powder. 

    Oh, and.. 

    Honestly, fuck these people. YOU took photos of yourself having sex with your phone. That's Apple's fault, why? Why did you take them if you didn't want to see them? Damn these narcissistic attention whores. 


    "Hey Siri, find picture of Lil Lunchable having sex."
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 28
    Wow, some people are just moronic. This is a great feature. If you don't like what its going to find, don't put the pictures on your Apple product in the first place. I have no concerns about privacy protection with Apple, they have proven time and again that privacy is a top priority.
    argonautwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 28
    ...if Apple really wants to promote 'we are not evil', then could users simply be given a global off preference switch, please...?
    I mean, I guess Apple could do that but why? Do people really want to make it harder to search for their own photos?  As mentioned, all the processing is done on the device and it’s the users own photos.  I can’t search in Photos for “brassieres” and find photos that aren’t already on my device.  What is the issue here?
    randominternetpersonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 28
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 3,593member
    So now even an iPhone is being charged with sexual harassment?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 28
    Wow, a negative, misleading, click-bait story about Apple the week of the iPhone X release, didn’t see that coming.
    jony0watto_cobra
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