Is there any reason they're not using a face recognition tools to see if someone has uploaded an avatar or a non-person picture like nature, building,etc? Will this rule limit users or frustrate them? I'm designing a social networking site and want to be sure why other big social sites don't do this?

Is there any frustration if I implement such a functionality and prevent users from uploading non-person pictures?

  • Possibly the technology just isn't ready, or there are hardware / processing concerns. Aug 19, 2012 at 20:30
  • I have something that recognize most of the person pictures with low bandwidth usage. So this concern is out of the question.
    – Alireza
    Aug 21, 2012 at 5:20

4 Answers 4


The technology is there.

I wouldn't be surprised if it continues to evolve in some way. They certainly recgnise the presence of a face and have been able to suggest an identity with some accuracy - providing you can see enough of the face. The technology is impressive in its ability though. Both companies have acquired facial recognition companies in the recent past.

See here: Facebook acquires facial recognition startup, may broaden tagging ability

Many users express themselves through their profile picture

This is a great example: 10 Creative Uses of the New Facebook Profile [PICS]

Users might find it concerning.

There were concerns about whether users would find it creepy/worrying. Plus some legal investigations. See here:

While I can't find any handy references, I've witnessed some user backlash by Facebook users when they feel an avenue for expression has been removed.

When designing online communities / social networks we strive to engender a sense of ownership. This is a signal that a legitimate community has formed. The stronger this effect, the more valuable your network is. One resulting effect is resistance to change.

e.g. Surviving Sudden Social Network Changes

However, some networks are based (or gain an identity) through restrictions.

To list just 2 wildly different examples:

I'd recommend that any restriction fit within the 'story' of your network. It must fit with the understanding of how it works and what it is for. For example if you ensure the profile picture is of a certain quality you can use this as a point of quality or security.


Though I cant speak from any existing research which FB or Google plus must have done with the logic of not enforcing that users have to upload facial pictures, I believe there are three primary reasons :

  1. Users might not be comfortable with posting their picture for personal or privacy concerns and would prefer to use a neutral picture such as a flower,building or even a dog
  2. They have to account for users who might opt to go for in for pictures of flowers or dogs or even highly abstract pictures just because it looks cool. Note: The previous link has no scientific analysis behind it
  3. The profile picture though it serves as an aid for identification is also a way for users to express them selves and people might express themselves in different ways as shown below :

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Lastly from an implementation perspective you cannot have perfect facial recognition as photographs are taken from all angles and you would not be able to get the key focal points to determine if this is a facial pic or not. Lastly also think of the nightmare in ensuring that people don't start putting up photos of celebrities (people do it by the way)


Of course limiting users would frustrate them - just a quick glance at facebook or google plus will tell you that many users prefer non-portrait photos as their profile photos.

You haven't listed any reasons as to why you would implement a feature like this. It's probably best to start by defining the benefits of imposing this restriction in order to see if it's justifiable.

  • A social networking site with face recognition tool seems to be more realistic. When it feels real then It would probably convince users that they are in a more robust, secure environment. And they should act real. Of course there are some limitation on the software itself, but it's good at 90% of time.
    – Alireza
    Aug 21, 2012 at 5:27
  • is that what you feel or what users feel? Have you done tests around this? I don't think that a social network full of celeb faces or fake faces would feel more secure Aug 21, 2012 at 5:29
  • you're somehow right. I think profiles are a way that users can express themselves if we restrict them then they probably leave the site or use celeb faces, and other none real pics which is more unrealistic. At least without face recognition tool in place we can see profile pics that express users feelings. I think the better approach would be to make it optional. Just warn users that their picture is not a person picture. +1 for the answer. I appreciate it.
    – Alireza
    Aug 21, 2012 at 5:39

I find it incredibly creepy and irritating when sites try to force me to participate at a higher level than I am comfortable with. That combined with a lack of privacy has resulted in me avoiding Facebook. But that is just my personal preference.

That said, and this goes to your question and 'user experience.' I think Google (and not just Google+) does a much better job of phrasing and making optional their requests for more info. I feel much less invaded by Google even though they have way more info.

For instance, I created a google account (and hence a profile) for a client the other day. I tried to use their logo as an avatar but it was too small (as per Google) so I uploaded a picture of a landscape that has local character--mainly because it was roughly square and big enough. A message popped up (clear facial recognition) that maybe I should consider uploading a different picture because my friends might have a hard time recognizing me, but when I opted not to, it was not an issue. I was able to use it and continue doing what I was doing.

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