If you like the sudden realisation that Facebook knows more about you than some of your closest friends, you will love the new Slideshow feature. Image: YouTube
While checking the Facebook app Wednesday night, I was presented with something worse than those "Good morning, Angela!" notices. Facebook had taken photos from my phone's album and created a hideous slideshow video. It suggested I share it.
My personalised descent into shame consisted of a screenshot I had taken of a depressing book passage I wanted to text my friends, and four selfies with an ex. We'd gotten back together recently but have been quiet about it, which is easy because we don't live in the same city. Keeping quiet meant no new tagged photos of us posted to Facebook, no suspicious increase in posting to each other's walls (not that anyone does that any more) and no rushing to tell people.
But Facebook knew anyway, because we give Facebook access to everything — photos, location, browsing habits — without thinking about it. Sometimes we do it without even realising we're giving the social network access to our more private moments.
The Slideshow feature has actually been around for a while. Facebook debuted it last year with the standalone Moments app, which sorts through photos on your phone and shows you events organised by time-specific metadata. Moments also uses facial-recognition technology to figure out which friends were there and then suggests you share the picture with them. Facebook has always billed Moments as an especially private way to share your photos.
Perhaps ironically, the way that Moments taps directly into your phone's photos and identified the faces in them has always felt kind of creepy but a little bit useful. Slideshow, which is part of Facebook.com and the Facebook mobile app, is super creepy and much less useful. It only works after you've taken five photos or videos within the past 24 hours.
So at best, Slideshow surfaces some pretty awful images. Given all the weird pictures on everyone's camera roll, most people's automated slideshows will be pure garbage framed by a silly theme and set to cheesy music. Honestly, no one should have to see a slideshow of the multiple, almost-identical selfies you took while trying to get the right angle. They definitely don't want to see random screenshots interspersed with a dramatic book excerpt referencing a South American flute made from human bones.
At worst, Slideshow is a stark reminder of the massive amount of personal information that Facebook collects. Between the auto-generated videos, facial-recognition technology, location tracking, the threat to delete photos most people didn't know they'd synced and those ever-changing privacy settings, Facebook probably knows far more about you than your closest friends.
Slideshow is Facebook's newest effort to double down on video, another attempt to keep more eyeballs glued on their News Feeds. But it's also a feature that appears to benefit Facebook's data-hungry ad sales team more than users. On some level, we all know that Facebook sucks at privacy. I knew Facebook could technically access my photos and scan my friends' faces, but this was an unpleasant reminder that the social network could comb through my private photos and prompt me to share what I wasn't ready to share.
It's unclear if you can opt out of the Slideshow feature altogether, but we've reached out to Facebook for more information. Luckily, you can opt out of Facebook's creepy facial recognition feature and turn off access to your photos. You can also just delete your account.