Posted by: glasskeys | 03/10/2014

How to stop iPhoto’s facial recognition and remove facial databases.

In an age of Google email data mining, "phishing" scams, and sleazy social networks such as Facebook, one can never be too careful with personal data. And as Richard Snowden has proved to the world: just because you are paranoid, doesn’t mean the NSA aren’t after you.

This brings us to a topic of a similar nature involving a "feature" added to Apple’s Mavericks iPhoto application: automatic facial recognition. I discovered this "feature" after I recently upgraded to OS X Mavericks, and created a bootable install image. Exploring new features, I was delighted to find most of the applications and OS features had improved — that is until I ran across facial recognition in iPhoto.

Besides the utility of slowing iPhoto to a crawl, facial recognition didn’t really seem to be that useful of a feature anyway, so I resolved to stop the facial scanning and eliminate the face repository. If this "improvement" to iPhoto bothers you as much as it does me, use the following steps to kick iPhoto’s creepy Big Brother off of your Mac OS X system.

First, be sure to Quit iPhoto if it is running. This is critically important, because we will be doing things that iPhoto will not like if left open. This includes removing all databases with scanned face information. So if you wish to stop facial recognition, but keep the facial recognition database, run only the first and very last command in the listing below.

Next, open Finder. Select the Pictures folder, and control-click iPhoto Library. Select the Open With option and choose
NOTE: If does not appear in this list, it can be found in the Applications/Utilities folder.

Here is a screenshot of my Finder window in action:

With the Terminal window open, type these commands at each $ prompt:

$ defaults write PKFaceDetectionEnabled 0
$ cd ./Database/Faces/Detected
$ ls
$ rm *.apdetected
$ cd ../../apdb
$ ls
$ rm Faces.db
$ rm BigBlobs.apdb
$ exit

(The ls commands show the contents of each directory, so you may omit those.)

You may now open iPhoto again — this time it will not scan your personal photos for faces to insert into a database. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I am not associated or employed by any company producing software or hardware reviewed on this site.


  1. rm *.apdetected – argument list too long!
    use “ls | xargs rm” instead

    • (Wow, a genuine non-spam comment.)
      Colin, thanks for the feedback. I didn’t have an issue running rm *.appdetected on my box, but I will add your feedback to the piece in case others have the same issue you did. I appreciate your comment.
      Kind regards,

  2. hi, it won’t work with older MacBooks

  3. Worked great for me

  4. awesome tip – worked great for me. As above commented rm *.apdetected get error arguments too long (too many files) – I simply opened that directory in Finder and select all + delete

  5. Thanks Man !

  6. Thank you, worked great, I hated that feature!

  7. Now my iPhoto won’t open at all. It opened the first time after I made the changes but now freezes on the spinning wheel and won’t open, no matter how long it sits. The entire screen is stuck – can’t click on any other icons, programs, open windows, etc. I have to force shut down and restart without reopening any programs. Not sure what happened. :0( Very disappointed as I really really hate the Faces ‘feature’ I am using a mid-2009 MacBook Pro with iPhoto 9.5.1 and OSX 10.9.5.

  8. Hi
    My problem is I can’t open iPhoto with
    I can open the terminal app separately – will that work
    Thanks from a very novice mac user

  9. Ok – now I can open it with the but not allowing me to input :0/ I really am a novice lol

  10. Thank’s for this great help! I hated this face-recogniction and start to lose my trust in Apple, since they don’t give me a joice with iPhoto wether I want this to run or not. Makes me feel like Apple looks at me no longer as customer, but as “source of data”.

  11. On MacBook Pro 13, OS X Yosemite works great!

    Thanks much!

  12. Worked a treat here too – thank you so much! This has become more and more annoying as my libraries built up.
    Fixed it for good and all (I hope).

  13. Thank you so much for publishing. I could list the Database/Faces/Detected directory, but all of the other requests were rejected! ;_(
    Ex: rm: *.apdetected: No such file or directory
    Alices-MacBook-Pro:iPhoto Library.photolibrary Alice$ cd ../../apdb
    -bash: cd: ../../apdb: No such file or directory

    More: rm: Faces.db: No such file or directory
    Alices-MacBook-Pro:iPhoto Library.photolibrary Alice$ rm BigBlobs.apdb
    rm: BigBlobs.apdb: No such file or directory


    Nevertheless, I appreciated receiving the hope, reading posts like yours give me the hope that there is some autonomy left in this digital landscape. THX!

  14. Thank you so much. Worked on iPhoto ’11 (v 9.4.3 720.91) with Mountain Lion.

  15. Unfortunately, face recognition resumed shortly after. ;-(


  17. So I just tried this and now FACES appears in “Events”!

  18. NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES. Thank you @ Glasskeys

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