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What your iPhone has really been doing with all of your ‘sexy’ photos

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Kayleigh Dray
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This surprising smartphone feature has sparked a huge conversation on Twitter…

It was recently revealed that the average millennial is expected to take a whopping 25,700 selfies during their lifetime (close to one selfie per day) – and, looking through our iPhone photos, we could believe it.

However, a recent tweet by user @ellieeewbu may have succeeded in putting more than a few people off their quest for the perfect angle.

“ATTENTION ALL GIRLS, ALL GIRLS!!!” she wrote on Twitter, using huge, screaming capital letters to highlight the urgency. “Go to your photos and type in the ‘Brassiere’ [sic] why are apple saving these and made it a folder!!?!!?”

She’s not wrong: searching “brassiere” (an archaic word for ‘bra’) in the Photos app on iPhones really does automatically categorise photos featuring bras or bikinis into a group.

Women have been responding to the tweet with screenshots of their own ‘brassiere’ folders – including Chrissy Teigen.

The Sports Illustrated model tweeted her results when she searched for “brassiere,” which for her, included “every boob or cleavage pic” she had ever taken.

“Why?” she asked the world at large, clearly at a loss for words.

We here at stylist.co.uk have checked our own photos, with many writers reporting similar results. Most searches tend to show photos of lingerie, bikinis, bare skin, vest tops or memes. In some rare cases, women have claimed that photos of them “having sex” have been pulled into the same category.

“I feel really violated,” wrote one social media user.

Another asked: “How do we keep this from happening?”

However, while many expressed alarm over the smartphone feature, tech experts have reassured that Apple is absolutely not maintaining a special folder for a particular category of pictures (nor is Google, apparently). In fact they say these categorisation tools have been put in place to boost our iPhone’s security and privacy settings.

Devin Coldewey, writing at Tech Crunch, explains that our smartphones are using “sophisticated image recognition algorithms” to analyse our photos for content.

He continues: “When a dog is detected, a ‘dog’ tag is added to the metadata that the service tracks in relation to that photo – alongside things like when you took the picture, its exposure settings, location and so on.

“It’s a very low-level process – the system doesn’t actually know what a dog is, just that photos with certain numbers associated with them (corresponding to various visual features) get that tag. But now you can search for those things and it can find them easily… without having to send them off to Apple or Google for analysis.”

Or, as Apple stresses on its website, “iOS is designed to take advantage of the powerful processor built into every iPhone and iPad. So when you search your photos, for instance, all the face recognition and scene and object detection are done completely on your device. Which means your photos are yours and yours alone.”

The page adds: “You can even ask Siri to help look for photos, with commands like ‘Find my pictures with dogs in them.’”

The image recognition software – introduced with iOS 10 in June 2016 – is reportedly capable of recognising seven different facial expressions, as well as a total of 4,432 keywords. And, yes, ‘brassiere’ is included (you can read the full list here).

However, as The Verge points out in an article, there does seem to be some discrepancy in the keywords that are being used. For example, “while women’s undergarments like ‘bra’ are listed as categories, there’s no mention of men’s boxers or briefs.”

Perhaps the folks at Apple need to update the list of keywords – in the name of equality, if nothing else.

Images: iStock 

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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