Facebook uses face recognition software to identify its users in photos. This works via a ‘template’ of your facial features that is created from your profile images. These features — the distance between your eyes, the symmetry of your mouth — generally do not change over time. Unlike a photograph, which captures some ephemeral expression of who you are at a particular moment, a face recognition template forever remains your portrait. It is all possible photos, taken and untaken, by which you, or someone else, might document your life.
These templates are Facebook’s proprietary data. For a brief period in 2013, users could access their template using the “Download a copy of your Facebook data” option in the settings (it is no longer included in the download). The information is unusable in its raw form without knowing the specifics of Facebook’s algorithm. But as an irrevocable corporate byproduct, the future implications of such data remain unclear.
Eternal Portraits is a series of printed and framed face recognition template data from our friends and ourselves.