iCloud Photo Library and the synchronization of Faces data

This morning, in a post discussing my first impressions of iCloud Photo Library, I mentioned a concern about the synchronization of Faces data, which I’d like to discuss in more detail here.

As background, for many years I organized my growing collection of photos in an Aperture Library, and during recent years had associated many of those photos to individuals using Aperture’s face recognition technology.

In anticipation of iCloud Photos Library, I wondered how I would upload 90GB of Aperture data (photos only, not including video!) to Apple’s cloud within a reasonable amount of time. The best location from which to to seed my iCloud Photo Library would certainly be my internet-hosted Mac mini, with its 100 Mbit connection. To support that, the great staff at Mac Mini Vault allowed me to ship them a thumb drive containing my data, which upon arrival they connected to the machine, allowing me to then copy my Aperture Library to the local drive, from where it would then get imported into Photos and uploaded to iCloud Photo Library.

It took about four or five days to seed my library with the 90GB of data from Photos running on the Mac mini. And a few days after that, all that data—photos, albums, etc.—began appearing on my iPhone, my iPad, and within the Photos app on my MacBook Air. What was missing, however, was my faces meta data.

Viewing Photos on the Mac mini (via Screen Sharing), I could see that all the faces data I compiled over the years did make its way into that initial import from Aperture. But that data wasn’t getting synchronized to my MacBook Air, where I needed it.

On Twitter, Thomas Verschoren pointed me to this Apple Support article which explicitly says that Faces data does not synchronize across Macs. That in itself is terribly, terribly disappointing because being able to find old photos of specific individuals was very important to me.

But then Thomas also pointed out something that gives me a glimmer of hope that Faces data not synchronizing might just be a temporary thing. He pointed out that if I search on a person’s name in Photos on my MacBook Air, I should see search results that could have only come from the Mac mini. And indeed I do:

As you can see from this image, a search on my daughter’s name returns search results, that are associated with a type “Face”, and so even though the smart albums themselves haven’t synced, some level of association between the person and the photo has.

On the other hand, though, looking at the information panel for one of the photos resulting from this search, the direct association of the face in the photo hasn’t synced.

So the current situation is that although I’m able to find all the photos that were associated with a person through Aperture’s face recognition process, that native relationship defined in Aperture hasn’t synced between Photos on my Mac mini and MacBook Air. I’ve got my fingers crossed that Apple will fully close this loop in some future update.

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