Apple is considering a facial recognition system that will allow users to quickly share photos with the people in them, according to a patent recently published on the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office website.

The patent, which Apple filed last February, outlines a software that could scan your photos for faces that match your contacts', then prompt you to share the photos with them. While Apple already uses facial recognition technology to identify and sort pictures in its Photos app for Mac, this patent would allow them to build on that by linking faces to contact data and integrating with non-native communication apps. 

This summer Facebook launched its Moments app featuring similar functionality. If Apple follows through with the plans outlined in its patent, it could be looking to streamline this process for native use in iOS. This would be particularly helpful considering how many photos are taken on iPhones just to sit unobserved in the Camera Roll. 

Despite its similarity to Facebook Moments and Google's Photos app in its ability to turn personal photos into usable data, Apple's firm stance against collecting user data suggests that this potential project would be treated differently than Google's and Facebook's ad-driven models. While that would likely mean photo data would be stored and processed locally on users' devices, the language of the patent does not rule out iCloud integration and storage. Either way, all three services are navigating a grey area between ease-of-access via the cloud and personal privacy, and it's one that will not be traversed overnight. 

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