Facebook Changes Privacy Settings to Enable Facial Recognition

Facebook Changes Privacy Settings to Enable Facial Recognition
8 June 2011 | | Marketing

Facial recognition software isn’t a bad thing and has been around for quite a few years now. It only makes sense to incorporate it in to Facebook – a site with millions of image uploads every day. But the problem is Facebook’s continued secrecy – or lack thereof. Why do they continue to implement new features and not tell users what they have changed and how they can opt out of it (if they want)?

Facebook is pushing the privacy line once again, according to a new report from a security and antivirus company.

According to the report, from Sophos, Facebook recently began changing its users’ privacy settings to automatically turn on a facial recognition feature that detects a user’s face in an image. Once the person’s face is detected, the Web site then encourages Facebook friends to tag them. Facebook introduced this feature last year for its North American users; it is now rolling it out globally.

Facebook also doesn’t give users the option to avoid being tagged in a photo; instead, people who don’t want their name attached to an image must untag themselves after the fact.

In response to a reporter’s inquiry, posted on a Facebook blog, the company said, “We should have been more clear with people during the roll-out process when this became available to them.”

The post continued: “We launched Tag Suggestions to help people add tags of their friends in photos; something that’s currently done more than 100 million times a day.  Tag Suggestions are only made to people when they add new photos to the site, and only friends are suggested. If for any reason someone doesn’t want their name to be suggested, they can disable the feature in their Privacy Settings.”

You can change the privacy settings relating to the facial recognition feature, but it is a little confusing. If you want to disable the feature, go your account privacy settings and click “customize settings” at the bottom of the page. Once in this area, scroll down to a list of options called “things others share,” and then click on the button that says “suggest photos of me to friends.” You will then be given the option to disable the facial recognition feature.

Facebook has come under repeated criticism in the past few years for automatically opting users into new product releases without their knowledge or consent. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and chief executive, has defended this decision in the past, noting that most users would not experience the full effects of Facebook without the new features that are continuously rolled out.

Privacy experts and some Facebook users disagree, saying the company should introduce new products by asking users if they would like to join, rather than automatically signing them up without their knowledge.

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