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Would you pass or fail the Facebook photo security test?

March 31, 2011

After a couple of weeks travelling in Australia, I was starting to have Facebook withdrawal symptoms, as I like to know what everyone is up to ( mainly my grown up daughter!) and so I decided to pay for 15 minutes internet access at a coffee stop in Port Douglas, up in Queensland.  Dollars loaded, flat white slurped & I was off.

After checking my Googlemail account, I had a precious 9 minutes remaining, and wanted to go on Facebook to see how everyone is and to give a quick holiday update.  But I was soon halted in my tracks when a security feature implemented by Facebook sprang up and asked me to identify friends from photos, before I could log in from an unfamiliar computer!  Suddenly I was catapulted into identifying 5 out of 7 tagged photos of friends to gain access to my own account. Was reminiscent of those obviously disguised photos in "A Question of Sport".

No time for another sip of my coffee, it was actually quite challenging trying to name people against the clock, with the added excitement/pressure of being locked out of your account if you don’t guess correctly!  The stupidity of all this is of course that you can’t possibly recognise every single tagged photo, taken from a random cross section of all your friends’ tagged photos!  I annoyingly had to use one of my 2 "SKIP" options as I struggled to recognise a yellow’y aged shot of a young girl from the 70’s randomly playing with a ball on a beach!  There were also a couple of my daughter I hadn’t seen before, whilst out with a large group of her mates, which I struggled to recognise initially – all quite nerve-wracking. Also managed to spot one of a work colleague on holiday years ago!

Anyway, I did successfully get through this bizarre photo identification quiz to gain access to my own account, but by this time, I only had a couple of minutes left to check my homepage for news etc.  If you haven’t experienced this strange process, then basically you are shown 7 tagged photos and given about 7 name options to select from – an ingenious idea, very poorly executed… 
On my return, I thought I would Google this subject as I knew other users must have had similar problems and no-one I knew had ever mentioned it. I soon found out that Facebook even has an FAQ specific to the issue: “I can’t access my account because I don’t recognize anyone in the photo security check.”!
It’s very easy to see why this test is so difficult for many Facebook users to pass and difficult to understand how they failed to realise this.
Another Facebook user Eleanor Herman documents how she was directed to the security check after trying to login from a laptop computer at the beach instead of the one she normally used. She’s an author who is ‘friends’ with her readers, many of whom she does not know personally and so she wasn’t able to correctly identify the five out of seven photos required to access her account. Here is an example of one of the photos causing her a lot of trouble: 
Now you can see the problem! Some users have been denied access to their accounts after failing to correctly identify photos of pets, objects and acquaintances they simply don’t know well enough to recognise.
Facebook encourages us to ‘connect’ with as many people as possible and so it’s not surprising that users can’t identify every single tagged face.  Plus, users upload and tag pictures of animals, food, objects, landscapes, abstract art and groups of people jammed together and so in reality, this was never going to work! 
Facebook says it is relying on tagged pictures from friends with whom a user is likely to have a close connection, similar to the algorithm used to decide what to display in a user’s News Feed and responded to say that only a small percentage of users have any problem with the photo security check, saying that it has been more effective than other kinds of security checks. But if you search on Google, you will see that users think otherwise and many have been understandably frustrated!
Let me know if you’ve tried to access Facebook from a different computer/location and if you passed or failed the photo test?!

Posted by Rebecca McCormick
Social Media

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