A tweet by user ellieeewbu today revealed that searching â€œbrassiereâ€ in the Photos app on iPhones categorizes photos featuring bras automatically into a group. Women have been responding to the tweet posting screenshots with similar results. Most searches show photos of lingerie, bikinis, bare skin, or in some cases, memes.
Should the fact that â€œbrassiereâ€ is a category at all be concerning? Or is it more alarming that most people didnâ€™t know that image categorization was a feature at all?
ATTENTION ALL GIRLS ALL GIRLS!!! Go to your photos and type in the â€˜Brassiereâ€™ why are apple saving these and made it a folder!!?!!?
â€” ell (@ellieeewbu) October 30, 2017
Image recognition was introduced with iOS 10 in June 2016, when the Photos app was updated with deep learning for object and scene detection. Apple stressed during the keynote, as well as on its website, that all object detection is done completely locally on the device.
In a Medium post, developer Kenny Yin detailed all of the facial expressions and objects the Photos app recognized, which he found through a few lines of code in the framework of macOS Sierraâ€™s Photos app. At the time it was released, the app was capable of recognizing seven different facial expressions, and a total of 4,432 keywords, â€œbrassiereâ€ included. You can read the full list here.
One thing to note here is that while womenâ€™s undergarments like â€œbraâ€ are listed as categories, thereâ€™s no mention of menâ€™s boxers or briefs. Clearly someone had to have made a conscious decision to include (or not include) certain categories. Even â€œcorsetâ€ and â€œgirdleâ€ are on the list. Where is the same attention to detail for mensâ€™ clothing?
Despite the fact that this categorization has been around for over a year, thereâ€™s something to be said about users just finding out about it now. Considering that machine learning image recognition was hyped as a prominent Google Photos feature since May 2015, I was surprised to find out that the Photos app on my iPhone had the same feature. Most people know about the facial recognition and Memories features on their phones, but based on the reactions from today, itâ€™s likely that many people (myself included) now know just how specific the image categories can get.
For the record, Google Photos does the exact same thing when you search â€œbrassiere,â€ except your photos are stored on the cloud, in Googleâ€™s servers. If anything, this should be the bigger security concern thatâ€™s freaking out people on Twitter.