Facebook Facial Recognition Concerns

With Facebook developers continually looking to impress us or at least find new ways to prompt us to share our data they have quietly introduced face recognition technology.

Now, this may be something that is helpful for ID at airports or for walking around the starship enterprise but the instant face recognition stored alongside users data has upset more than a handful of users.

The new facial recognition technology that was launched with a whisper automatically identifies users pictures to their friends in the UK and many other countries.

This is yet another example of Facebook ignoring privacy rights leaving most users not knowing what’s happened.

The problem is Facebook automatically opts us into this service.  Shouldn’t we be naturally opted out of these functions and actually have the choice to ‘opt-in’?

Users can disable the feature by turning off the “suggest photos of me to friends” option on their Privacy Settings page

No one actually realised what had happened until Sophos, the software firm, alerted consumers in a blog post a few days ago by saying “now might be a good time to check your privacy settings”.

The purpose of the technology is to make tagging photos on Facebook easier and with 100 million photos tagged a day this is a lot of data openly shared.  When the technology identifies a user’s face in a new photo added to the site it will give the user the option of tagging the image to the recognised individual.

The problem I see is that even if you do opt out, behind the scenes Facebook still has access to this data. If your face was at a party, demonstration, restaurant etc even in the background then if/when the software is good enough then your social pattern is tracked.

You have to remember Facebook is not just a social tool from the perspective of Mark Zuckerberg’s team, it is, in fact, a multi-billion dollar commercial vehicle. So when new changes come in they are often there to improve profitability on existing revenue streams or as part of plans to drive new revenue. In my opinion, this is linked to the advertising algorithm that will now target keywords from places we are seen and albums we are recognised in, I don’t think there are links to the CIA etc like some writers have suggested.

However, as an owner of an ethical social network myself, I fully understand the power of data and the technology that sits behind that and the more Facebook has on us users the more they can create patterns about our social footprint.

Facebook said in a statement: “We should have been more clear with people during the roll-out process when this became available to them. Tag Suggestions are now available in most countries and we’ll post further updates to our blog over time.”

A spokeswoman could not confirm exact timings of the rollout or when it would be available to all of its 600 million users.

On the official blog, it now says ‘Facebook will continue to post updates as the rollout progresses’, although I’m sure they will make the changes without letting us know first or consulting its user base.

Personally, I am not too fussed about targeted advertising, it certainly is better than the viagra emails clogging up my spam box every day.  Also, the technology itself isn’t actually that good ‘at this stage’ take a look at this article that explains further.

The last privacy uproar occurred when Facebook launched the Places check-in feature last year, users were required to opt out via their privacy settings if they did not want to be mentioned in a friend’s check-in.

Facebook was recently caught out hiring a PR firm to spread stories about how Google was using consumers’ data for inclusion in its Social Circles, without alerting them first’.  This only serves as an attempt to take the heat off of themselves.

How do you feel about Facebook having your facial image details stored alongside personal and social data? do you care how it is being used? Maybe we should all handover fingerprints and just be done with it or is this a storm in a teacup? What do you think?

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